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Tracey Thorn - Out Of The Woods

Tracey Thorn, Out of the Woods

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

TRACEY Thorn is a name that’s virtually synonymous with quality. Her distinct voice has provided memorable focal points for Everything But The Girl and Massive Attack (not to mention others), before she disappeared from the scene for five years to raise a family.

She now returns with her first solo material in almost 25 years (since A Distant Shore) with the excellent Out Of The Woods. Her prime collaborator is Ewan Pearson, whose peerless track record in contemporary clubland has led from early work for leading techno label, Soma, to his current status of remixer-du-jour for the likes of Goldfrapp and the Pet Shop Boys from his home base in Berlin.

The result is an album that stretches Thorn’s vocals to exemplary effect, from the quiet, sensitive reflection of her Massive Attack era, to the more clubland-focused Everything But The Girl style.

I have to admit, I was a little worried when I heard lead single It’s All True, a song that tries to capture moments of late ’70s disco and dance floor pop but which doesn’t work as seamlessly as it sounds. Thorn’s vocals remain enchanting but the disco, techno-tinged beats sound dated and cheesy, adding fuel to the suspicion that the whole retro vibe is starting to sound stale.

Had the rest of the album followed the same formula, it could have been a massive disappointment. Fortunately, it doesn’t and It’s All True is a rare misfire.

Opening track Here It Comes Again is a reflective intro built around subtle chimes and organs, and a whispered set of vocals that feel like they might fracture if you get too close. It’s an enchanting introduction and a breathtaking reminder of Thorn’s beautifully evocative vocals. The strings, too, work wonders.

A-Z is a little more Everything But The Girl-like, dropping a smooth beat and some lush electronics over the top of some foreboding lyrics about “growing up in small town hell” and kids still bullying each other. It contains some ’80s overtones during some of the synth stabs but it works really well.

There’s a snappy, disco vibe surrounding Get Around To It that works much better than the lame It’s All True, before Hands Up To The Ceiling strips things down to more chilled out levels. The tinkling pianos are lovely, the sultry vocals utterly intoxicating and the gentle background acoustic guitar licks pitched just perfectly. It’s a firm highlight.

Similarly enchanting is the heartbreaking By Piccadilly Station I Sat Down And Wept, a tender weepie that’s achingly beautiful. Thorn’s vocals hint at the timeless quality of Karen Carpenter, while the orchestration is exquisite, working well with her vocals without ever intruding.

Easy is another terrific offering, beginning with a cinematic keyboard that’s extremely evocative and which gives rise to an atmospheric effort that recalls more of Massive Attack’s sensibilities.

And Falling Off A Log is another confidently delivered mid-tempo recording that’s full of reflective lyrics and moody beats and instrumentation.

Come the album closer, Raise The Roof, which hints at both Queen’s Radio Ga-Ga and the general style of The Eurythmics you’ll be singing Thorn’s praises once again and hoping that it won’t take another five years before she lays down any more recordings.

Out Of The Woods, in short, is a brilliant comeback from an artist who seldom fails to impress.

Download picks: Here It Comes Again, A-Z, Hands Up To The Ceiling, By Piccadilly Station I Sat Down And Wept, Raise The Roof, Easy, Falling Off A Log

Track listing:

  1. Here It Comes Again
  2. A-Z
  3. It’s All True
  4. Get Around To It
  5. Hands Up To The Ceiling
  6. Easy
  7. Falling Off A Log
  8. Nowhere Near
  9. Grand Canyon
  10. By Piccadilly Station I Sat Down And Wept
  11. Raise The Roof

  1. Nice review. Don't know if I wanted more state of the art tracks and less 80s myself but she is still one of my fav singers

    mook    Mar 7    #
  2. Solid review. Can’t wait for the album. Glad you gave props to the producer, Ewan Pearson, who (in my mind) is the reason the album is great and not merely okay. This is a beat driven album, first and foremost.

    vhp    Mar 11    #
  3. I bought Distant Shore when it first came out and this CD is a great return to old form. EBTG used her ‘foghorn’ style of singing rather too much, probably the malign influence of Ben who tended to overproduce everything. This record shows her true and more varied vocal style off far better

    nick    Mar 13    #
  4. Right on review. I couldn’t agree more. I have the album and I am listening to it over and over. Goregous. Impressive.

    Dennis McKown    Mar 17    #