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!
Fanfares should be sounded! This is Tracey Thorn’s first album of new material in seven years. Now coming up to nearly forty years of music making, in her autobiography Bedsit Disco Queen, Tracey Thorn observes that she has been ‘described as an indie darling, a middle-of-the-road nobody and a disco diva.’ Ms. Thorn is one of a kind, having managed to be so many different things to so many different people, and ‘disco diva’ might well be the lazily applied label which applies here. Yes, it’s her drawing on dance influences – amongst others. (For the record: she has never been a ‘nobody’ in my ears or eyes, or indeed, in many others’.)
Record opens with the appropriately, uh, majestic ‘Queen.’ A song that manages to be both for the head and the feet, it manages to be reflective yet upbeat. Thorn has always been a reflective songwriter – but she’s understood that that doesn’t have to equate to barely accompanying herself on an acoustic guitar. Hell, a lot of this feels like good POP music.
The album was conceived by Thorn as a record that would be listened to in the daytime, possibly on the move rather than being one for the bedroom. A case in point would be ‘Guitar.’ Not only is it impressive to rhyme ‘kissed’ with ‘catalyst’ but this tale of a girl taught to play ‘Teenager In Love’ would have been played out as a guitar-led track in lesser hands. It has the yearning for lost innocence served up in a perfect pop style.
For all the perfect pop singles on here, the album’s centrepiece is the nine-minute ‘Sister.’ It’s described as being a song about female solidarity and defiance for the dance floor. When Thorn sings ‘…and I fight like a girl’ it is no admission of weakness but rather one of female togetherness. It also features Warpaint’s rhythm section, and backing vocals from Corinne Bailey Rae.
This year marks thirty years since Tracey Thorn had, then, one of the biggest hits of her career as one half of Everything But The Girl with a cover of Danny Whitten’s ‘I Don’t Want To Talk About It.’ She has described this album as being ‘nine feminist bangers.’ That’s pretty much an accurate description – and no bad thing. It’s clear that she is comfortable changing styles and reinventing herself. This is an album that is a triumph and as the album reaches its end, it seems so natural to start again…
Record is released by Caroline International on March 2.
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…
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
Yup, still here. Christmas is coming the goose is getting fat, but for this vegetarian it’s just plain busy.
Tonight’s choice -‘River’ by Joni Mitchell is perhaps more controversial, in that it has been debated whether or not it is actually a Christmas song. Some songs get associated with Christmas that could perhaps be appropriate to other times of year – East 17’s ‘Stay Another Day’ and ‘Altogether Now’ by The Farm, for example. Released around Christmas time when they first came out, they now get trotted out as part of the package. However, towards the end of the song, you can definitely hear an echo of ‘Jingle Bells’ played on the piano that you certainly don’t need to be a musicologist to pick up on.
My favourite Joni Mitchell record is Blue, and while ‘Carey’ is my favourite track on that album, and Mrs. 17 Seconds’ is ‘A Case Of You’ this is one of the standout tracks on an amazing album.
There have been a number of cover versions, including Tracey Thorn’s version, which appeared on last year’s Tinsel and Lights album. If you haven’t heard it, do so. It also features her dueting with Green Gartside on a cover of Low’s ‘Taking Down The Tree.’
And yes, I will do my annual Christmas posts on here.
One of the people who is doing a Christmas album is Rod Stewart, and I’m not really fussed. But another that I am most definitely excited about is Tracey Thorn’s Tinsel and Lights. It’s a mixture of modern and retro classics. If you’re wondering whether it will compare with Low’s Christmas album, well, one of the songs is a cover of Low’s ‘Taking Down The Tree’ which is a duet with none other than Green Gartside of Scritti Politti.
As anything even to do with the cold was eligible, one of the songs is her take on the White Stripes’ ‘In The Cold, Cold Night’ which was originally on their Elephant album, sung by Meg White. She also tackles ‘River’ by Joni Mitchell (which was originally on her album, Blue, and which still provokes debate forty years later about whether or not it is a Christmas song).