Album of the week
Beth Orton is adrift in a time warp: Her programmed beats and elliptical lyrics are as current as tomorrow's newspaper. Like all hipsters these days, she's also stuck in the '70s—though in her case it's the 1870s.
Or at least its instruments. Summoning muted orchestrations of violins, cellos and brass, the English singer-songwriter is moving further from her Joni-Mitchell-meets-the-Chemical-Brothers roots. The irreplaceable instrument is Orton's pretty, gritty voice, which brings to mind Sarah McLachlan if she lost her kitten and stayed up for a week.
At times this lush chamber pop wallows in gorgeous melancholy; it could use more of the throbbing urgency of Orton's 1999 track "Stolen Car." More often, though, as on the title tune, with its funky electrogroove and lively percussion, there is a darkly alluring glow. An acquired taste? Acquire away.
Bottom Line: Brainy music for a rainy day