Tracey Thorn: Love and Its Opposite

Tracey Thorn
Love and Its Opposite
(Merge)

Tracey Thorn’s Love and Its Opposite is an adult pop record for people who have reasonable expectations for lyrics of substance and meaning. Not nearly as glossy as say, an Annie Lennox LP, but certainly in that confessional mode.

Ms. Thorn has found herself at a crossroads of life; one of divorces, broken promises that sting, disappointments that have the potential to crush and inner strength to weather the storms of life. Your writer loves this music for many reasons, but is particularly charmed by the European qualities of the work. One can hear strains of European dance culture, as well as the sounds of accordions, the textured synth pads of Euro pop and the stark, or maybe dark loneliness of the continent’s chamber pop.

Opening cut “Oh, The Divorces” pretty much sets the tone of the record to come; how did I come to be in this place at this point in my life? However, underneath it all is a redemptive quality that never leaves the listener wondering if she will prevail over this life’s adversities. “Hormones” is a fascinating and bittersweet song about hormones and how they have different effects on a mother and daughter. “Singles Bar” is a poignant tale of middle age desire for love and forlornly settling for the loneliness of having to substitute sex for love. Her stark cover of the Unbending Trees’ “You Are A Lover” with just her on electric guitar, only one voice and some spectral reverb and delay is spine-chillingly sad and emotionally desolate. On Lee Hazelwood’s (oh, ye of impeccable taste) ”Come On Home To Me” she duets with Jens Lekman (who was name-checked earlier on the first song) to create a ceramic sonic wind tunnel that seems to always be in direct contrast to the song’s intent and yet, bizarrely works.

The instrumentation is pretty bare despite its Euro-synth production overtones with the keys and guitars to keep it all grounded in a minimalist and emotionally true place.  And of course, Ms. Thorn’s singing is as wonderful as one would expect from her many years with Everything But The Girl.  Her voice is a supple and natural instrument that makes every word ring true emotionally. The melodies are simple, direct and memorable and all in all, the perfect record to feel sad, and yet hopeful to…