Monday, November 27, 2006
And the nominations are... (you cant go wrong with these two)
BETH ORTON – COMFORT OF STRANGERS
Few vocalists equal the expressive subtlety of Beth Orton, whose fourth album is both her most musically spare and artistically complex to date. Not only does the production and backing by Jim O'Rourke (known for his work with Sonic Youth and Wilco) capture Orton's vocal style at its most unstudied and unvarnished, the lack of embellishment focuses all the more attention on her songwriting. From the jazzy phrasing on the deceptively jaunty "Worms" through the haunting "Feral" and the amazing grace of the closing, hymnlike "Pieces of Sky," Orton's songs give voice to the sort of knotty, prickly emotions that are as hard to define as they are deeply felt. Most of the musical dynamic features piano or guitar over an elemental, insistent rhythm section, making the coloring of an occasional string section ("Conceived"), harmonica ("Absinthe"), or accordion ("Safe in Your Arms") all the more striking. As an indication of the emotional range of this musical minimalism, the title cut is soothing enough to please fans of Norah Jones, while "Heartlandstruckstop" is as edgy as Patti Smith.
MINDY SMITH – LONG ISLAND SHORES
With her expressively breathy vocals and uplifting melodies, Mindy Smith expresses both the romantic and spiritual dimensions of rapture. It can occasionally be hard to tell whether Smith is singing of God or love, or if she even makes a distinction between the two. Whether she's invoking prayer and sin in the opening "Out Loud," hoping that God's looking out for her in "Out of Control," casting a seductive charmer as a "Little Devil," or recalling her preacher father in the title track, Smith's material blurs the distinction between the earthly and the ethereal. Her duet with kindred spirit Buddy Miller on "What If the World Stops Turning" highlights the album, though the Nashville-based artist rarely hints at country within her buoyant brand of folk-pop.
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