Tracey Thorn: Record
As one half of Brit electro-dance duo Everything But the Girl (and notably, as lead voice on the title anthem from Massive Attack’s 1994 trip-hop classic Protection ), Tracey Thorn has made a career out of emphasizing mood, substance and feeling over brazen technique, almost as though the privacy she values so fiercely in her personal life is just as much a guiding force in her
music. Of course, it would be a mistake to think she’s a shrinking violet. She has always been careful and deliberate in her choices—the austere, dialed-back sound of her last solo disc Love and Its Opposite comes to mind— but never at the expense of playing it safe, which is why Record , her first new album since 2010, comes across as such a bolt of electricity. Coproduced with longtime friend and collaborator Ewan Pearson (who has remixed everyone from Black Strobe to Depeche Mode), the set consists of what Thorn has referred to as “nine feminist bangers,” and although she likely meant that as a quip, it’s a pretty incisive assessment. At the heart of it is the brash, bumptastic “Sister,” which gets its weight from Thorn’s chill-inducing delivery of lines like, “Oh little man, you’re such a baby—put up your fists,” while Corinne Bailey Rae backs her up with seamlessly layered harmonies to die for. “Air,” by contrast, floats along on a happy melody and Pearson’s feathery synths, but the narrative that Thorn lays out is self-reflective and nostalgic. (“I grew up a girl, then I went astray…didn’t understand the rules or how to play.”) On “Go,” she grapples poignantly with the prospect of a child leaving the nest—again, a flipped mirror to the more charged-up, NewWavey “Babies” (“…and when I wanted babies, nothing else would do but babies, babies, babies”). Record is a powerhouse of an album that finds Thorn finally reveling in being an open book; after such a long time away from the studio, she deserves the chance to cut loose with “no fucks given,” as she so eloquently puts it.