Tracey Thorn: SOLO - Songs and Collaborations 1982-2015 | Album of the Week
SOLO - Songs and Collaborations 1982-2015
Despite her reluctance to play the pop star game, Tracey Thorn has nonetheless been flitting in and out of public sight for almost 35 years.
It might come as a surprise to even her that she remains a presence to be reckoned with, but there is still the thought that dares to raise its head above the parapet: she is the best British female singer and songwriter of her generation.
This double album starts with Oh, the Divorces! from her 2010 album Love and its Opposites and a song that perfectly captures her wry narrative style; other tracks such as Singles Bar, Kentish Town, Late in the Afternoon, Hormones (also from Love and its Opposites) and Joy (from 2012’s Tinsel and Lights) interweave varying concerns of a woman of a certain age.
What Thorn has proven beyond doubt – particularly with her latter solo work – is that there is as much of importance happening in the life of a 40-50-year-old person as there is in one 25 years younger (and that the more mature perspectives are, inevitably, firmly imbued with life experiences).
Yet there has always been a serious air about Thorn, who even at the age of 20 (when, in 1982, she released her debut solo album, A Distant Shore, represented here by Small Town Girl and Plain Sailing) sang with a kind of forlorn gravitas that has been her constant calling card.
The first disc is mostly full of such reflective solo delights; the remainder highlights just how much her voice excels when it is part of the collaborative process – Protection, Better Things (Massive Attack), The Paris Match (Style Council) – as well as on perfect-fit cover versions (Sufjan Steven’s Sister Winter, Vampire Weekend’s Taxi Cab, The xx’s Night Time and – particularly elegant – Molly Drake’s How Wild the Wind Blows.
Thorn’s recent collaboration with John Grant (Disappointing) isn’t here, but there’s more than enough on show to once again proclaim her as an unassuming, unafraid, three-dimensional songwriter – or, as her longtime partner Ben Watt once described her, “half wallflower, half freedom fighter”.