Tuesday, November 2, 2010

New Stuff – Tracey Thorn

Now that I’m older and have money (ha, ha) I’ll make a few impulse purchases from time to time. Rarely is it something totally out of the blue (unless JT or someone I “trust” suggests it…and the price is right), but I’ll dabble in the solo outings and side projects of artists I’m aware of, perhaps somewhat familiar with, but not necessarily a fan. Such was the case when Tracey Thorn from Everything but the Girl came out with her latest solo record, Love and Its Opposite. On a whim I’d already signed up to receive updates and MP3 samples for the forthcoming release, but since I’m the most casual of EbtG fans (that is to say I used to own Amplified Heart) I figured I probably wouldn’t pick up the album once it came out even though I quite liked the little tidbits her label dangled in front of me.

Well, wrong again. Amazon had the download for only $3.99, so how could I say no?

This is Thorn’s third solo album, the second post-EbtG, and it thankfully mainly reaches back to the “classic” sound of her former group before Missing became a dance mix sensation and they started dorking around with all that nonsense. Most songs are low-key jazzy-folk numbers, perfect for a late night setting, just a piano or a guitar with some strings, etc to accompany, and her smoky voice carrying the listener through, well, Love and Its Opposite. These are all love songs in the sense of love that was, or could have been, or should have, but ultimately is not. The opening lines of the entire album, from Oh, the Divorces!, sum up the blunt reality of love, and particularly marriage, in this day and age with the poignant and telling, “Who’s next, who’s next…,” and a similar idea runs on from there, as Thorn explores the stories of people attempting to move on while love, for one reason or other, remains absent from their lives.

Not that it’s all drab and dreary, musically that is, and there are a couple of upbeat pop numbers, though the lyrical theme of human disconnection continues, as with the again self-explanatory opening lines of Hormones, “Yours are just checking in, mine are just checking out,” or the lo-fi-synth-dance of Why Does the Wind?, where the intentions of a new lover are questioned. And while these may be the “stand out” tracks, they’re not the ones that haunt you when the music stops and you’re going about the rest of your day, as the aforementioned Oh, the Divorces!, the plaintively simple You Are a Lover and the “starting all over” plight of Singles Bar do more than just bring a melody to the lips, but a thought to the heart.

One would think an album of this lyrical depth comes from personal experience, but as Love and Its Opposite came out on Ben Watt’s label (her husband and partner in EbtG), one assumes Thorn is still happily married and only writing from observation, seeing more and more friends fall victim to a life without fulfilled love. It’s a solid and enjoyable effort throughout, not only musically but also as a statement on today’s society – with Thorn clearly on the side of love.

Here's Oh, the Divorces! "live at home" plus Why Does the Wind?

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