I don’t think it’s that Beth Orton dropped off the radar as much as the radar dropped off on Orton. What should have been an amazing collaboration with Jim O’Rourke, 2006’s The Comfort of Strangers was ignored by the press and it’s been 6 years since then, where Orton’s name only materialized in vague promises of a new album that may someday appear on Anti- Records. It’s a shame, because Beth Orton in a really subtle way, is engaging with the same kind of stuff, sonically and politically, that people like MIA are on a maximalist level, and yet she’s been relegated to, legit, adult contemporary status! Here’s someone we should be paying attention to who the indie consciousness has knocked down to playing 2nd or 3rd billing at folk festivals! This makes my head spin.
What she’s doing in “God Song” is taking the blues and shifting it. It’s a song about straying, but it complicates the fear and the transgression. “He’s my man and I’ve been doing him wrong” she says about 30 times in the song, because, like blues songs do, you take a point and hammer it in until the listener realizes it’s not that simple. The man is god, but the home they share is always ablaze somewhere. There’s something really pricking and human about how Orton undermines the religious fervor she’s claiming in the song– “I’m praying for the strength not to carry on.” I mean, yes, carry on with bad behavior is what the line intends, but she could have said, “the strength to carry on” and had it mean the same thing. Orton wants faith, it seems, even as she knows it will do nothing but bind her tighter- “I’ve watched and learned to lead a decent life/But meanwhile I’m dying inside.” Words complicate this song, as they do most things.
Which is why it’s so interesting she ends “God Song” the way that she does, with a minute of wordless voices, just reaching high. Despite a song which messes up its own intentions, this ending feels genuine. t feels like fervor, it feels like a god song, and, most importantly it feels set free.
And also, Junip are stupid good. Like, Jose Gonzales decided he wanted to make an album of song that sex would have sex to. Junip’s songs are playing in the bordellos that widowed poets dream up, populated with 50 years of their buried love. There’s just nothing to do to these songs except be very, very close to someone or deluge on stuffy Blue Line air as your train sticks between Monroe and Washington. Take your pick.
Speaking of Mute Records. By the time this album comes out, you will be talking about how excited you are to finally listen to the Cold Specks album. I never do this on this blog because I’m too crotchety to feel like part of a PR machine. But I’m going to tell you that Cold Specks have posted three very beautiful songs on their soundcloud. These are songs you want to wear like a medical alert bracelet or a locket with a picture of a boy at war which knocks your chest every step. These are songs you want with you, you want not just in your mind but also strapped to your wrist or slinging near your ribcage. If that sounds oblique, then just go and listen. And, come on, I Predict a Graceful Expulsion is the best album name you will hear in the next long while. And, come on, this is one of the best music videos you will see in the next long while
These three songs are from Cold Specks’ forthcoming (May 22nd, to be exact) album I Predict a Graceful Expulsion.