There is a particular type of album that I fell really hard for in 2021 and couldn’t help but be reminded of after hearing Beth Orton’s Weather Alive. The albums I’m thinking of are The Weather Station’s Ignorance and Cassandra Jenkins’s An Overview On Phenomenal Nature, which both made it into my Top 5 Albums last year. They both featured an airy jazziness combined with breezy folk-pop introspection that were great places to kinda just hide in for a half hour or so at a time, as they offered some quietly soothing respite from the chaos that seemed to just be piling up the last couple years.
I’m not really sure what I’d call this genre. Indie White Girl Jazz? Melancholy Piano Pop? Either way, Weather Alive fits pretty snuggly into this cozy genre, even if all three of these artists hail from different parts of the world and probably had no intention of putting out vaguely similar albums. Also, in regards to Beth Orton, it’s possible that she’s been releasing albums like this for a while. The UK singer-songwriter has been around since the early ’90s, but for whatever reason had completely snuck under my radar prior to this album of quiet confidence and grace.
While Weather Alive isn’t quite the stunner for me that Ignorance and An Overview On Phenomenal Nature were (which again, I’m probably unfairly comparing), it still offers that nice mix of being soothing background music, but also contains a striking soberness that draws you in. The undeniable stand-out track is “Friday Night”, a song that illuminates the idea that the start of the weekend can be a whole lot sadder when you find yourself alone in an empty room. I can’t help but wish a few more of the songs on this album captured the meditative glow of this track, but regardless, it’s a wonderful example of what has made Orton such a consistent songwriter while also remaining unassuming enough that longtime music nerds like myself can still be discovering her in 2022.