On her stunning sophomore album, Central Reservation, Beth Orton slips free of the electronic textures that colored her acclaimed 1996 debut, Trailer Park, stripping her music down to its raw essentials to produce a work of stark simplicity and rare poignancy. With the exception of a pair of Ben Watt-produced tracks ("Stars All Seem to Weep" and a remix of the title cut), Central Reservation rejects synthetic sounds and beats altogether in favor of an organic atmosphere somewhere between folk, jazz, and the blues; the focal point is instead Orton's evocatively soulful voice, which invests songs like "Sweetest Decline" and "Feel to Believe" with remarkable warmth and honesty. It's a risky move creatively as well as commercially – after all, the club culture was the first to champion Orton's talents – but it pays off handsomely; for all its brilliance, elements of Trailer Park already feel dated, but the new material possesses a timelessness that recalls the best of Nick Drake or Sandy Denny, with a haunting beauty to match.
You're having a dinner party. The in-laws are going to be there. So are some of your closest "after-hours" friends. You need music, something mellow but not despicably insipid. Welcome to a 12 disc set that will cover all the above bases. Featuring Dido, Coldplay, Morcheeba, Zero 7, Lazy Lover , Second Sense & many more ... So sit back and enjoy the Ultra Chilled tracks.
Heidi Berry may claim her influences are Billie Holiday and Chrissie Hynde, but the British singer/songwriter's hushed, introspective music is closer to Nick Drake, Sarah McLachlan, and especially Beth Orton than anything the Pretenders have ever laid to tape. That said, anyone interested in her haunted folk 'n' country crooning should look to the material on her first anthology, Pomegranate, which wonderfully sums up Berry's career to date. With songs spanning Berry's handful of releases, the album also includes demos, a Bob Mould cover ("Up in the Air"), enhanced videos, and artist-penned stories for each song. Impeccably sequenced, the 14 tracks balance Berry's pessimistic and upbeat moments, and the resulting compilation is a must-have for fans of her late-night lullabies.