One of my favourite albums of last year was bought on a whim.
The cancellation of the next train home meant I could spend some bonus time in a record store close to Glasgow Central station. I always like to buy something when I’m in the shop, even if it is just a cheap paperback book or DVD. I noticed a display near the shop entrance promoting a new album by Tracey Thorn, something I wasn’t, until this point previously aware.
Regular readers will know that I’ve long been fond of Everything But The Girl but that I’ve also used the blog to offer the opinion that Tracey’s greatest vocal performance came when she guested for Massive Attack. I’ve a couple of her recent solo albums in the collection, neither of which I’ve regarded as essential listening, albeit they both contain a number of very fine moments. I have, however, enjoyed Tracey’s forays into the world of books, particularly her autobiographical work Bedsit Disco Queen, one of the most engaging and honest tomes about life in the music business. It was my thoughts about the book rather than the more recent albums which made me take a CD copy of Record to the counter.
It turns out that Record (ree-cord) is quite an extraordinary record (rek-ord), in which Tracey offers reflections from the perspective of who and what she is – a 50-something mother of three whose life-partner has been to hell and back in terms of his health, and who herself now has a breadth of knowledge and experience that can only come with age. Tracey has experienced things that just weren’t on her radar when she was young, fearless and feeling more or less unstoppable (not in any bravado way….just simply that fact that the vast majority of young folk are hardwired to feel like that).
It’s also a work in which the music is as clear and uncluttered as anything she’s done before, benefiting immensely from the fact that all the tunes are her own as well as her being able to utilise the talents of a number of high quality collaborators from the worlds of indie and pop. It’s a work which obviously means a lot to Tracey – she certainly went out on a limb by describing it as ‘nine feminist bangers’. The danger with such language is to over-promise and under-deliver, but in this instance, from the very off, this was never going to be the case.
Like many of my favourite releases of recent times, Record has changes of mood and tempo throughout, never threatening at any point to be monotonous or mundane. Synthpop, ballads, disco and indie are all on display with that distinctive and soothing voice to the fore. It’s an entertaining, charming and enjoyable album, very moving in places and continually thought-provoking. It doesn’t sound like an album by a 55-year old and it’s probably fair to say that Tracey has been influenced by the music that her grown-up kids listen to.
One of the best songs, Sister, was released also as a single, complete with radio edit and some remixes. It’s an absolute triumph on all fronts:-
The co-vocal is from Corrine Bailey Rae, whose soulful pop/jazz debut was a huge hit in 2006 on both sides of the Atlantic, but who just two years later had to cope with the tragic death, by misadventure, of her husband. She has since released two more successful Top 20 albums as well as rebuilding her life….
The energetic and driving bass and drums come courtesy of Jenny Lee Lindberg and Stella Mozgawa from indie band Warpaint.
Essential listening if you don’t mind me saying.