With each solo outing, Beth Orton chips away at her musical past, and her third album, Daybreaker, is no exception. Known for her work with William Orbit and the Chemical Brothers, Orton has gradually shed her electronic sheen, vying for—and achieving—a more organic singer-songwriter finish. Topping the stunning Central Reservation would be a daunting chore for even the most accomplished songwriter, yet Orton gives it an impressive go. It doesn’t hurt that Orton is one of the greatest female voices of our time; she radiates her sorrow with an unbridled clarity reminiscent of Billie Holiday. Like that of an old friend, Orton’s voice seems strangely familiar on tracks like the near-epic “Paris Train.” “This was inevitable,” she sings with urgency, her voice imbued with dub-like reverb. The song’s guitar loops chug along like a train-ride across the countryside, its kaleidoscopic view heightened by cinematic strings and subtle electronic flourishes. The album’s title track mixes Orton’s sultry vocal with the Chemical Brothers’s signature clunky drum loops and haunting guitar drones. If nothing else, Orton’s Daybreaker proves she can play the folk songstress just as well as she does the techno diva; Emmylou Harris and Ryan Adams guest on the country-tinged “God Song” and “Concrete Sky,” respectively. Orton’s songwriting skills have improved dramatically since her debut, her fears and neuroses manifested in a compelling Chicken Little complex: “There’s a concrete sky falling from the trees again and I don’t know why.” Much like Central Reservation, Daybreaker tends to lose itself in the dour slow stuff, but it’s ripe for repeat discoveries.
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: