Seems we cannot agree with Beth about what year it is…
Katherine St Asaph: How did something produced by Fuck Buttons come out sounding like “Funkytown” remade on the model of Nina Persson’s glottal stops in “Hanging Around”? It’s heartening to hear Beth Orton’s course — continued on the album — take her again down paths less beige, and selfishly heartening to hear something that sounds like it’s assembled itself out of what’s in my head.
Alfred Soto: Warbling over polite programmed beats is nothing new to a singer who worked with Ben Watt in the late ’90s. Central Reservation holds up, thanks to her melodic smarts. Orton’s decision to sing at the top of her register over Fuck Buttons’ wheezing electronics takes getting used to, though.
Joshua Copperman: I mostly know Orton from the lovely “Magpie” and “Stolen Car,” which is probably my favorite song I know where the lyrics remain inscrutable after hundreds of listens. She has a history of electronics, but hearing the folktronica of those songs replaced with something that more resembles “Funkytown,” of all things, is somewhat disappointing. It feels undercooked, refusing to build to anything above pleasant. Also, the titular line reminds me of Scott Mildenhall’s blurb for “What Kind of Man,” if only because Beth was a toddler in that year, and the line might as well be 1983.
Katie Gill: Why on Earth does a song that repeatedly mentions the 1970s sound a tad bit Gary Numan and exceedingly 1980s? I honestly don’t know if I love or hate it, which extends to my confusion about the song itself.
David Moore: The referent in the production was nagging me — what song is that? Seemed later than 1973, surely, closer to ’83. Zapp? Atari? Plods when it should bounce, not half as playful as it needs to be. Speed it up a bit, give it a little more attitude and a lot less brain… ah, there it is — Girlicious, “Stupid Shit.”
Sabina Tang: Wispily pleasant uptempo single off an album that could have been released in 2002 as the de rigueur electro-indie follow-up to Central Reservation without any sense of the artist veering off-brand (“Dawnstar” isn’t exactly far off “Star All Seem To Weep”). But Beth Orton’s voice can be uptempo, or it can be wispily pleasant: both at once come off as mealymouthed.
Anthony Easton: As much as I appreciate an upbeat Beth Orton, this takes her unique voice and makes a kind of nostalgic, generic pop song about a time that never really existed. I’m disappointed.
Brad Shoup: Orton has made a Looper song that finally got its shit together, one that keeps the mellotron tones but loses the cloudgazing lassitude. She sings about electric sky over a fat yet fading bassline, and it’s halcyon psychedelia but for her poise. The palm-muted synth chatters and seizes up; the cymbals are made to sound like they’re coming from a pocket Casio. In fewer words: the track jumps as much as the impatient narrator.
Patrick St. Michel: This song sounds like it has a fever, but not a fun kind.