Tracey Thorn – Love and its Opposite (Strange Feeling)

May 25, 2010 by  

So much has been said about the Didos, Lilly Allens and Amy Winehouses of the female singer songwriter variety that one particular British talent has been left out of that bracket. Having produced one of the seminal dance anthems, ‘Missing’, with electronic dance act Everything but the Girl, as well as collaborating with Paul Weller’s Style Council, Tracey Thorn’s exclusion undermines what a fantastic singer songwriter she is.

Her last album, ‘Out of the Woods’, in 2007 was somehow criminally overlooked as a contender for the prestigious Mercury music prize. It was a successful marriage of her soft vocals and an electronic disco palette, but for some obscure reason it did not manage to make its mark on the charts.

‘Love and its Opposite’ is essentially Tracey Thorn stripped bare – you won’t find any big disco number on here. What you will find is Thorn at her very best, reverting back to basics with only a piano or an acoustic backing, with a few strings thrown in for good measure. Album opener, ‘Oh, The Divorces!’, finds Thorn posing as a voyeur, peering on the outside of her friends relationships questioning ‘Who’s next’ and it’s filled with such honesty that one can’t help but be moved. As an opener to her new musical direction, it is a stunning introduction and is just one of the ten treats that she has in store.

Each track on the album has its own mood and effortlessly fades into the next. ‘Long White Dress’ is another slow building track, with close harmonies and sparse production, and sounds almost like Tracey is placing herself within a child’s shoes when they are having thoughts about their wedding day. This concept of maturing is a recurring theme throughout the album, with the upbeat ‘Hormones’ representing the first change of tempo and mood. Proceed further through this journey of self-discovery and you will find ‘Why Does the Wind?’, which is a magnificent synth pop number that showcases Thorn’s vocals at their best.

This, in effect leads onto ‘Single’s Bar’. On this track Thorn has plucked up the courage to venture into the outside world and search for her Mr Right supposedly. The song is a smooth jazzy number with a twang accompaniment. Its lyrics are stark and honest – maybe a little too honest for some doubters, but she carries it off magnificently. However, her lyrics are at their most honest on the solemn ‘Late in the Afternoon’. With its brutal honesty you can almost feel her anguish and arguably any other female songwriter could not do this song justice. The final track, and her swansong, ‘Swimming’, with its slow building climax into swirling atmospherics, represents Thorn pushing through the harsh times into a brighter future, ending the record on a positive note.

What is clear from this album is despite its sometimes banal subject matter, as on ‘Kentish Town’, and the fact that Thorn is not actually a young singer songwriter, each of the tracks on here are so undeniably honest and shot through with such emotion that these issues become an irrelevance to whether the music has an impact or not. Thorn’s voice is stunningly original and so pure that it never outstays its welcome – it draws you into her world and captivates the listener. For such a natural talent to have not gained notoriety is unheard of. With a selection of tracks as assured as this, national treasure status surely beckons.

[rating:5]


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