Thursday, December 22, 2005

Sometimes Less Is More

I'm just about to go on break until the New Year, and, as bandwidth is about to be exceeded, so is the Smudge. So this might be my last mp3 post of the year...and the mp3 is coming down tomorrow.

Everyone's curious about what effect Sonic Youth collaborator Jim O'Rourke had on the new Beth Orton album, Comfort of Strangers, and how the album stands up to her previous work. If you're Jim O'Rourke, you know you can't get in the way of that voice, and you have to preserve the arpeggiated acoustic guitar & piano chords that hold her songs together and mark her as a singer-songwriter. You've got to try to not so much embellish those things, but to showcase them.

Here's the title track, written by Beth Orton, M. Ward, and Jim O'Rourke. After you listen to it, you're going to have to replay it. That isn't a recommendation. You'll be compelled to play it again, trying to figure out how a song that seems so lightweight can hit you so hard, and how a song that shouldn't hold up longer than two minutes makes you want to hear more when it ends at 3:12. All you get is all the song needs: bass, piano, light percussion, acoustic guitar, her voice, and great songwriting: I know there's an answer to your question/but I don't know if I can word it right/Say what you mean, don't tell it like it could be/I don't know, should I say it out loud?

O'Rourke & Orton could have gone deep with the percussion, and could have fully arpeggiated the guitar chords, rather than holding the first note and playing the last two together, but though the song would have sounded fuller, sometimes less is more.

Comfort of Strangers holds up. It's her best record yet.

Beth Orton - Comfort of Strangers (mp3)

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