by Tim Den
It took me a while to get into Beth Orton, since my introduction to her was through an ex-girlfriend… but anyway (ahem), Daybreaker is a much stronger, well-written album than her last (Central Reservation). And even if her semi-mumbling/nasal/funny pronunciation (not just cuz she’s British, either) gets to you once in a while, there’s no denying that she knows how to write fucking good songs.
Downtempo rhythms and deep bass paint the background, while Orton’s folksy guitar and vocals moan melodies like the first ray of light breaking over the horizon. Verses twist into choruses with the ease of a diving seagull, effortlessly fishing just the right transitions out of the ocean that is the songs. The mood is always mild, relaxed, “sophisticated” even. Whether it’s a duet with Emmylou Harris (“God Song”), a jolly buddying-up with Ryan Adams (“Concrete Sky”), or a snazzy borderline-jazz number (“Anywhere,” which contains a luxurious chorus), there’s always a sense that Orton knows exactly how to harness the power of tranquility. No doubt about it, she sounds in complete control of the game, especially on “Mount Washington” where her semi-Sarah McLachlan melodies swim up your spine like a beach’s high tide. Slow, sensual, and beautifully gentle, Daybreaker is Beth Orton at her best.
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