Comfort of Strangers
Beth Orton’s fourth album, Comfort of Strangers, pairs skip-along acoustic pop with beautiful balladry. She’s got Jim O’Rourke both producing and playing here; he provides layered, multiple-melodic piano and strings but to a degree that they don’t overwhelm the songs. This album keeps it simple. For the pop numbers - “Worms” and “Shadow of a Doubt” are two of the best — the rhythm section comes in either well into the intro or only to punch up the chorus a bit. Orton’s ballads, especially the title track, remind you of Elliot Smith at his best, just a quiet moment with her plainchant voice and delicate instrumentation. Spiritual references and imagery arise frequently throughout the album. Clearly Orton’s thinking deeply in song these days.