While everyone has been moving toward the electronic side of music, Beth Orton has moved away from it with her fifth album Sugaring Season. Being known for her folktronic sound, Beth sounds natural and at home dropping the tronic and centring on folk. Sugaring Season is a clear Autumn record, made for the season with its peaceful yet chilly sound and the layers of self-isolation in its lyrics but there’s the sense of surrounding nature in its songs with ongoing references to birds, weather and the time of day.
Throughout the record, Beth sings of acceptance of her defeat. In Magpie, she sings “it’s a hard hard fight/and I’m turning this one in.” Her vocals are demanding and sometimes in distress but she never lets on that it’s truly over. She’s still waiting for something new, as in Last Leaves Of Autumn, she sings “I’m ready for a first time feeling/Something I could believe in.”
The album sounds rich even at its most minimal moments. The style and production harkens back to the days of the late 90s Lilith era and Beth has that mastered. Candles has a build-up of accompanying strings and immaculate instrumentation as she bellows “Morning comes, what’s done is done/I just found another way to cry, to cry, to cry.” But her sound isn’t just limited to that one era but sometimes feels like a more timeless kind of folk. In Poison Tree, she channels Joni Mitchell as she sings over a verse by poet William Blake that she extrapolates on.
I was angry with my friend
I told my wrath, my wrath did end
I was angry with my foe
I told him not, my wrath did grow
Sugaring Season is a reflective album that eases through with each song showing that Beth is true to the words she sings. It’s simplicity is only on a surface level while underneath the details in the underlying instruments and lyrics show that there’s more to Beth than meets the ear, whether you know her or not.
2. Dawn Chorus
4. Something More Beautiful
5. Call Me The Breeze
6. Poison Tree
7. See Through Blue
8. Last Leaves Of Autumn
9. State Of Grace