Album Reviews

Beth Orton – Weather Alive

(Partisan Records) UK release date: 23 September 2022

Singer-songwriter’s first album in six years is an engrossing listen and offers a soundtrack to the peaceful transition from summer to autumn

Beth Orton - Weather Alive As the sun sets on summer and the Autumn Equinox arrives, what better way to soundtrack this peaceful transition than with Beth Orton’s suitably autumnal new record? Weather Alive’s songs fuse warm, homely instrumentation with lyrics that often deal in memory, nostalgia and innocence lost.

The album’s title track sets the mood nicely, as layers of piano and guitar are filtered around psychedelically and Orton delivers her lyrics in a manner that borders on timid, as if in awe at her surroundings. The song is lengthy and contemplative, its structure unfurling in a natural, unshowy manner, and this is an approach that continues for much of the record.

Haunted Satellite sports a surprisingly groovy rhythm section under lyrics striking a resigned note, while Forever Young brings the tempo down and attempts to traverse between an idealised past and an unideal present (“we could go rolling, rolling, rolling, my darling / go rolling down that avenue / go back in time, go back in time, where the river runs wild / our love will be forever young”).

Orton is perhaps best known for gentle, melodious vocal performances, but Weather Alive demonstrates intriguing variety in this area. Over a shuffling snare-laden beat Friday Night’s delivery is alternately shaky and abrasively upfront, and Lonely’s hook is the most expressive and overtly emotional moment on this generally low-key record (“lonely, lonely, lonely loves my company”).

Unwritten dwells once again on the past’s long shadow, and features a beautiful coda of distorted sliding pads – a welcome example of the backing band coming to the fore, along with the occasional saxophone solos. At other times these arrangements can feel a little staid, but that doesn’t keep Weather Alive from being an engrossing listen especially as Orton dominates the proceedings so expertly.

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More on Beth Orton
Beth Orton – Weather Alive
Beth Orton – Kidsticks
Interview: Beth Orton
Beth Orton – Sugaring Season
Beth Orton – Comfort Of Strangers