I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, of all the Christmas albums released since Low (now 20 years old!) my favourite is Tracey Thorn’s Tinsel and Lights. There’s a mixture of covers and new songs, from one of the greatest women to come out of the post-punk era.
This is the album’s opening track, one of the new songs, the video for which was filmed in Lille, France.
Even better is the album’s title track which tells the story of a New York Christmas:
This year I finally got a vinyl copy, you should, too!
One of my favourite singers, Tracey Thorn, has announced her first album of new material in seven years.
Entitled Record, the video for the album’s opening track ‘Queen’ can be watched below. In her own words ‘It’s a great opener for the album – driven along by Ewan Pearson’s unashamedly glittering electro-pop production, drums and bass from Warpaint’s Stella and Jenny, it features me playing electric guitar for the first time in a while, and singing my heart out.”
The album tracklisting is as follows:
1. Queen 2. Air 3. Guitar 4. Smoke 5. Sister 6. Go 7. Babies 8. Face 9. Dancefloor
‘Nine feminist bangers!’ she reportedly (well, it’s what the press release says, so you know…) jokes about how the album sounds. It’s released on March 2. Bring it on…
That’s the thing that hits you first about Ben Watt’s third solo album. He’s made so many records and diverse ones over a career now into its fourth decade, and not so much dabbled as embraced many styles over that time. Yet what they all have in common is the ability to produced music that connects with the heart.
There’s no question that for many he’s the male half of the excellent Everything But The Girl duo with wife Tracey Thorn. While she sang lead vocals on many tracks, he took lead on a few – ‘The Night I Heard Caruso Sing’ from 1988’s album Idlewild is one of the best songs in their catalogue, for example. And even before he formed EBTG, he was working with his hero Robert Wyatt.
And that’s perhaps the starting point for this album. It’s not that this is a record that sounds retro, but rather it connects with the likes of Wyatt and other artists of a similar pedigree: Richard Thompson, John Martyn and Nick Drake. It’s hard to pick a standout track, because it’s one very impressive whole, but perhaps album opener ‘Gradually.’ Or maybe ‘Winter’s Eve’. Ask me when I play this album yet again and I might give you yet another answer.
An excellent album, that benefits from repeated listens, each one bringing you further into its charms and its…
There’s been no shortage of artists doing Christmas albums in the last few years, but perhaps the best new one to appear post-Christmas by Low has GOT to be Tinsel and Lights by Tracey Thorn.
Released in 2012, the album features her takes on ‘Maybe This Christmas’ by Ron Sexsmith, Joni Mitchell’s ‘River,’ The White Stripes’ ‘In The Cold, Cold Night’ and a duet with Green Gartside of Scritti Politti on a cover of Low’s ‘Taking Down The Tree’ from that aforementioned Christmas album.
This is a Thorn original, and it’s gorgeous, setting the tone for what is a wonderful record, sung by one of the best singers Britain has ever produced.
There is also this video where she talks about the making of the album:
You can stream the whole album – but if you love Tracey Thorn and Christmas music, you really should have bought this album by now:
Everything But The Girl -‘Walking Wounded’/’Temperamental.’ (Edsel)
June 1995. It’s my first Glastonbury. Amongst the many acts I see that weekend are Everything But The Girl. A few months back singer Tracey Thorn has guested on Massive Attack’s Protection album, and and she and musical partner Ben Watt collaborate with Jeff Buckley on the stage that day on a cover of The Smiths’ ‘I Know It’s Over.’ This is the calm before the storm…
A few months later, ‘Missing’ a track from their then most-recent Amplified Heart, is remixed by Todd Terry and goes on to become their biggest hit worldwide. And a band who had impeccable indie credentials, and yet had been perceived as moving to the middle of the road are suddenly reborn as a successful dance act.
1996’s Walking Wounded was the duo’s most successful album, and saw them suddenly a lot more in vogue than they had been in over a decade. The title track saw them experimenting successfully with drum’n’bass, but electronica and house found a place here, too. ‘Wrong’ and ‘Single’ were also huge hits. And deservedly so, but it wasn’t that Everything But The Girl had drastically changed their songwriting, but the delivery was in tune with the zeitgeist of the time. This album was well-received then, and it has dated extremely well. (****1/2)
1999’s Temperamental followed in a similar vein, but it’s not as strong as an album. Both re-issue packages come with a disc of bonus tracks and remixes and what this tends to show up is that ‘Full Fathom Five’ the lead-off single and opening track was one of the weakest tracks here in its original form (I could listen to these remixes for hours). ‘Low Tide Of The Night’ the second track seems too like generic house, but after that the album finds its feet, including the lovely ‘Lullaby Of Clubland’ and closing with the Deep Dish collaboration ‘The Future Of The Future (Stay Gold).’
Thus far, it’s been the last studio album from the couple. Both have pursued solo careers, even though they are married with children (understandably they wanted to raise their children out of the public eye). Watt and Thorn have both published two books apiece (well worth reading, if you haven’t already done so). Hopefully they will work on another EBTG album, but the re-issues show a) how to do a re-issue package and b) how to successfully reinvent yourself as a musical act while staying true to yourselves.
Walking Wounded and Temperamental are out now on Edsel