Beth Orton: Comfort of Strangers 

What struck me most about Beth Orton's new release wasn't her enduring voice or her skill in writing a catchy tune, it was the album's staying power. I could not seem to get a few of the stronger songs out of my mind. The song "Shopping Trolley" may be one of her finest yet. And the album as a whole is a joy to listen to.

Comfort of Strangers is Orton's fourth effort in her 10 year career and her first in over three years. With a solid core of musicians backing her up--Tim Barnes on drums and Jim O'Rourke on bass and other assorted instruments--the sonic landscape is varied and engaging. O'Rourke also produced the album and has been involved with such notable bands as Sonic Youth, Wilco, Stereo Lab and Tortoise as both a band member and producer. His skills and influence alone appear to have aided in marking a turning point for Orton in what may be her strongest album to date.

For those who are familiar with Beth Orton's work, this album is a must-have. And for the many who are longing for a fresh change--one that is challenging yet rewarding--I would suggest giving Comfort of Strangers a listen. The bonus disc that is included is well worth the few extra bucks.

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