Sugaring Season

Album Review of Sugaring Season by Beth Orton.

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Sugaring Season

Beth Orton

Sugaring Season by Beth Orton

Release Date: Oct 2, 2012
Record label: Anti
Genre(s): Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter

75 Music Critic Score
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Sugaring Season - Very Good, Based on 16 Critics

Rolling Stone - 100
Based on rating 5/5
100

"Call me the fire/Call me the air," sings Beth Orton on her fifth LP. There is something elemental about Orton's folk soul; at its best, it sounds like the world's prettiest campfire music, all hickory smoke swirling into a starlit sky. But Orton is better when the music is less woodsy. The Gallic-flavored "See Through Blue" swaps the fingerpicked six-string for a piano plinking out a waltz, and the lyrics add bite: "Since breaking with you/Each day's divine." Listen to "Something More Beautiful": .

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Paste Magazine - 85
Based on rating 8.5/10
85

Beth Orton’s fans have been waiting for years for a record like Sugaring Season that makes good on the promise of her early recordings. It’s hard to believe that it was over a decade and a half ago that Orton first attracted widespread attention in her native England by singing on a William Orbit remix of John Martyn’s classic “I Don’t Want to Know About Evil. ” Her first two albums Trailer Park and Central Reservation—along with David Gray’s White Ladder—are classics of the era whose groundbreaking blend of folk, pop and electronica textures has aged surprisingly well.

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AllMusic - 80
Based on rating 8/10
80

Sugaring Season is Beth Orton's first album in six years. Reportedly, she almost gave up music in the interim. Recorded in Portland, Oregon with producer Tucker Martine, the album finds her accompanied by a stellar backing band -- keyboardist Rob Burger, bassist Sebastian Steinberg, and jazz drummer Brian Blade -- as well as a sterling array of guests including guitarist Marc Ribot, violinist Eyvind Kang, and her husband, songwriter and guitarist Sam Amidon, to name a few.

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American Songwriter - 80
Based on rating 4/5
80

Most listeners’ introduction to Beth Orton came via her contributions to albums by William Orbit, Red Snaper or The Chemical Brothers — three electronic acts with seemingly little connection to lushly orchestrated folk. Yet ever since her proper debut album Trailer Park in 1996, the English singer-songwriter has found a graceful balance between the electronic beats that once thumped beneath her expressive vocals and a gentler, more graceful folk songwriting style. She may not have been the first artist on the receiving end of the now-overused “folktronica” tag, but it’s more or less exactly what she did, boiled down to a neat and tidy portmanteau.

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The Guardian - 80
Based on rating 4/5
80

In the six years since her last album, Beth Orton has married, become a mother, re-established her Norfolk roots and brushed up her guitar skills with help from her hero Bert Jansch. The result is a fresh, autumnal album that's unashamedly mature yet impressively free. In Magpie, there is a defiant sheen to Orton's swooning vocals. "Silence me and I won't be here any more," she trills coolly as a string section whips up a storm around her.

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Pitchfork - 77
Based on rating 7.7/10
77

In the realm of easy labels, Beth Orton is a singer-songwriter. After all, on the surface, her oeuvre is lined with heart-bent ballads and cautiously redemptive anthems, often played on acoustic guitar and backed by some sterling ensemble. In the late 90s, Orton toured with Lilith Fair, and she's recorded with Ben Harper, Ryan Adams, and Jim O'Rourke, a triumvirate of readymade foils or complements for anyone with a six-string and a story to sing.

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Filter - 77
Based on rating 77%%
77

Though it took this doe-eyed Anglo six years to finish her latest effort, not much has changed. Orton still favors sparse neo-folk touched up with gracefully emphasizing strings as a backdrop for her enchanting vocals. Though this approach yields a few sweet moments on Sugaring Season—especially melancholic, piano-driven “Last Leaves of Autumn”—it all feels a bit saccharine.

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Consequence of Sound - 72
Based on rating B
72

It’s said a change is as good as a rest. In the case of Beth Orton, whose latest release, Sugaring Season, comes after a six-year hiatus, a rest is as good as a change. Since breaking through with her solo debut, Trailer Park, in 1996, the British singer-songwriter has always had a quality edge to her work. Now refreshed and recharged by a break that made time for marriage and motherhood, Orton is back with a new record that marks a transition from her electronica-fused roots to a richer, pastoral sound.

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Slant Magazine - 70
Based on rating 3.5/5
70

Losing the electronic production flourishes that made her early work so distinctive might not have seemed like a wise decision for Beth Orton, but the singer-songwriter’s move toward a more straightforward, conventional folk aesthetic, which started with 2006’s Comfort of Strangers and continues on Sugaring Season, her first album in six years, actually works for her. There are no longer any bells and whistles for Orton to hide behind, and that allows her songwriting and extraordinary voice take center stage. Orton’s writing has always been characterized by a strongly morose bent and a clever, idiosyncratic use of language, and those elements are even more prominent in the songs on Sugaring Season, which are some of the strongest of her career.

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Drowned In Sound - 70
Based on rating 7/10
70

She used to be known as the comedown queen. You’d spend the whole night spazzed off your baps on magic monkey juice, stagger home in the wee hours, whack on Trailer Park and watch the sun rise as the quack handle wore off. Remember? After two albums of highly successful tripfolktronica, Beth Orton hit a low-point with 2002’s Daybreaker. The cover itself appeared unadventurously similar to her debut’s.

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PopMatters - 60
Based on rating 6/10
60

Beth Orton’s career has always been defined by an identity crisis. Although her initial claim to fame was the result of a few serendipitous collaborations with the Chemical Brothers, just as electronica was taking off as the next big thing in the mid-‘90s, her best work has been more conventional in nature: lively, catchy folk numbers that gave a little edge and bite to singer-songwriterly adult alternative fare. In trying to live up to the “folktronica” tag that Orton came to rep, her own music, ironically enough, lost its own sense of direction, leaving her early albums feeling disjointed in her attempt to cover all her bases.

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PopMatters - 60
Based on rating 6/10
60

Beth Orton’s career has always been defined by an identity crisis. Although her initial claim to fame was the result of a few serendipitous collaborations with the Chemical Brothers, just as electronica was taking off as the next big thing in the mid-‘90s, her best work has been more conventional in nature: lively, catchy folk numbers that gave a little edge and bite to singer-songwriterly adult alternative fare. In trying to live up to the “folktronica” tag that Orton came to rep, her own music, ironically enough, lost its own sense of direction, leaving her early albums feeling disjointed in her attempt to cover all her bases.

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The Observer (UK) - 60
Based on rating 3/5
60

There's a new surety to Orton's voice on this record, her sixth studio album and her first in as many years. Her wisp of a voice has found more weight and with it more feeling; she shapes each phrase with a knowing that's so much more compelling than the restive, anxious strain of some of her earlier records. Steadily paced and coloured with beautifully spare instrumentation, mostly plucked guitar and rippling piano, there's none the less a quiet propulsiveness that tugs through each song, imbuing things with the sense of unseen things stirring.

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Exclaim
Their review was positive

It's been a long, long journey, but Beth Orton has finally finished her transformation from the queen of chill-out to traditional folk artist. To be honest, it wasn't really a huge stretch, as stripping away the beats and blips from those early songs left behind her gentle vocals, which drifted along effortlessly. Album number five, Sugaring Season, is her purest work yet, stripped right down to the bare essentials and, as a result, it fits perfectly on an English folk timeline that includes Sandy Denny, Pentangle and even Laura Marling.

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DIY Magazine
Their review was positive

Six years after the stark brilliance of ‘Comfort Of Strangers’, Beth Orton makes a welcome, if slightly belated return with ‘Sugaring Season’. Those intervening years between albums have surely been kinder to the singer songwriter, who sounds noticeably happier on this fifth record. Thankfully, the oppressive, almost claustrophic foundations of much of her best material (‘Pass In Time’, ‘Blood Red River’) is still richly evident here, despite any slight shift in theme.

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BBC Music
Their review was generally favourable

Orton’s unique voodoo pulls the listener in and holds them close. Tom Hocknell 2012 With her unique voice and songwriting, it was obvious that Norfolk-born Brit Award-winner Beth Orton would outlive the hedonism of the early 90s. It was at that time she first emerged, from the rave scene and through collaborations with William Orbit, The Chemical Brothers and Andrew Weatherall, who produced her 1996 album, Trailer Park.

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