Tracey Thorn – Record (Merge)
“Oh, what year is it? Still arguing the same shit.” Tracey Thorn is 55 years old, old enough to have lived through several ebbs and flows in modern feminism. She calls her fifth solo album a collection of “feminist bangers,” and while it’s not quite likely to set dance floors on fire—in ways that “Missing,” her smash 1995 single with Everything But the Girl managed to do—it more than lives up to the first half of her descriptor. “I am my mother / I am my sister / And I fight like a girl,” she sings on one of the album’s many highlights.
Thorn retired Everything But the Girl in 2000 (after giving birth to twin girls, ironically enough). Her solo work since then has largely consisted of downtempo piano ballads and modern folk songs, which perfectly underscore her untouchable lyrical mastery in depicting midlife crises in well-executed character sketches—particularly on the piercing 2010 album Love and Its Opposite, which should be essential listening for any parent on the other side of 40. (Try not to cry during “Oh, the Divorces.”)
This album finds her writing from a similar place—there is no mistaking that this is an album written from a certain vantage point in life—but musically she’s not acting her age, for better and worse. “Dancefloor” sounds exactly like an older person’s idea of modern dance music, and falls flat. But conversely, the nearly nine-minute “Sister” sounds perfect, a slinky groove featuring the rhythm section of Warpaint with Corinne Bailey Rae on backing vocals, which never wears out its welcome.
Whether they work or not—and they mostly do—the musical choices are part and parcel with the lyrics, Thorn told the Financial Times. “If 2010’s Love and Its Opposite was my mid-life album,” she said, “full of divorce and hormones, then Record represents that sense of liberation that comes in the aftermath, from embarking on a whole new ‘no fucks given’ phase of life.” As it should be. (March 2)
Stream: “Queen,” “Sister,” “Babies”