Music Reviews
Weather Alive

Beth Orton Weather Alive

(Partisan) Rating - 8/10

Beth Orton's career is one of resilience and pure talent, an artist who never stopped creating despite occasionally operating on the fringes of mainstream success. The folk-leaning singer-songwriter's stunning eighth LP couldn't be a more perfect introduction for those unfamiliar with her work, beckoning the natural forces that move us through life with a steady, contemplative mood piece. Starting with the horn-filled seven-minute title track, where she can't contain the presence of a beautiful day, Orton couldn't feel more at ease in what sounds like a creative reawakening in many ways.

Reminiscent of Kate Bush's late-career stretch making sparse, elegiac arrangements with a light jazzy touch reaching deep into the human condition, Orton digs into a similar sentiment. There is, however, a little more swing in tracks like Fractals, where her band lets forth a jittery rhythm section over fluttering sax fills. The bluesy shading of Haunted Satellite also moves with an austere slickness, with Orton warning of growing climate concerns over her raspy vocal delivery: "Nature's got a bigger gun than anyone." Moving into more personal terrain is album centerpiece Forever Young, a haunting piano-driven dirge that has her reflecting on mature love—an often-dismissed topic she unfurls with a simple romantic sweep.

What's noticeable about Weather Alive is how Orton assumes change as a constant, navigating a new sound and completely unafraid to take any risks. Those familiar with Orton's work will find some classic touchstones of her work, whether it's the trip-hop elements of Forever Young or the soulful directness of Friday Night. One could say that her impeccable use of space is what reveals a special intensity to her work, a musical style artists don't often explore as they near the end of their third decade release music. Orton hinted at it through all this time, even if you weren't paying close attention.