Sugaring Season

5 October 2012 Music

Sugaring Season

Beth Orton

Beth Orton has always stood apart from other pensive singer-songwriters, thanks to an organic fusion of folk and electronics. That identifying feature is absent on the English artist’s first album in six years, leaving confident songwriting and gentle arrangements but also a certain blandness. Much of Sugaring Season passes by like merely pretty surroundings, from the genial organ groove of ‘Call Me the Breeze’ to the lightly rolling ‘State of Grace’. Still, Orton puts more focus on her singing, going beyond her usual sandy and faltering delivery. That keeps things interesting, as does her inhabitation of folk music’s rich past on ‘Poison Tree’ and ‘Magpie’. But it’s a disappointing record when the most striking track – the chamber-pop fluke ‘See Through Blue’, with its swaying vocals, and dainty piano and strings – is less than two minutes long. Orton could stand to make an entire album in that freeing direction. For now, without the complication of electronics, she sacrifices her primary point of difference.

DOUG WALLEN

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