When Beth Orton arrived as a hybrid, critics hailed her work because originality in this age is unusual. Still the Blues throws up interesting new artists despite their traditional leanings, Gary Clark Jr for example. And so I hear that Beth Orton has returned with the Folktronica album that everyone wants – I just want her to be good. Originality doesn’t always equal quality and influence isn’t always bad. Take Air – they simply remembered a sound from the past and faithfully resurrected it in an excellent way.
I bought Orton’s latest album Kidsticks today in hope that it would be good as well as unique and I’m listening to it as I write. I’m going to see her at Poisson Rouge in New York next week so I thought I should try and get to know some of her newer songs. So far Petals is my favourite track in that it has that hybrid sound aka Folktronica AND it’s a good song and with her appealing voice, I find myself enjoying this album’s style and musical depth.
These days stylistic lines are blurred. What to do on your sixth album? Beth Orton has to take the initiative away from the audience and give it to the muse. The critics want the artist to be a constant improvement on the original interesting aspect that they recognised on the debut. The fans may want the same. So everyone hopes she changes enough to grow but doesn’t lose the initial magic. In other words change but don’t change – much. Like AC/DC – the fans want Angus to play riffs and solos and the singer (whoever it may be) – to scream. So don’t change but try and be better.
We demand so much of our favourites artists pressurizing them so much that sometimes they can lose the plot and become someone else’s idea of what they should be. And if they fail you, they are easily written off. Personally I don’t care if Beth Orton investigates Reggae, Metal, Folk, Synth or Gothic 11th century jousting music – as long as she does it well. Because I don’t like styles or genres, I like music done by anybody in any way and it seems to me that every genre has good and every genre has bad.
On first listen, stylistically, this will please fans and critics alike so be glad that her Folktronica remains intact. In the past I have heard her take her music to different places and I always like where she goes, I like where she takes her melodies, I like her voice and I just can’t help liking her whichever badge she chooses to wear.
And then there’s Bowie…