One of the best pop lyricists around and this, her second solo album, is as majestic as they come.
TRACEY THORN OUT OF THE WOODS (2007, Virgin Records)
Towards the end of 2007 I was fumbling through the end of a 8-year old relationship and as so many times before in challenging periods, music played a vital role in the healing process. Two albums in particular worked as a backdrop; where Róisin Murphy’s Overpowered was my emancipation album shortly after the breakup, Thorn’s Out Of The Woods was the album that carried me through the tears, the fights and the sad realization that I had failed to make it work, but also in a way it managed to be my compass and kept my sanity in check. Weird how some music work on you.
Having just a couple weeks back, finished reading her excellent and warm autobiography Bedsit Disco Queen, How I Grew Up And Tried To Be A Popstar, I felt compelled to listen to this underrated masterpiece again and yes, it still holds its firm and comforting grip of my heart, as only close, true friends do. As a way of integrating her indie roots (The Marine Girls) with her singer-songwriter years with EBTG, as well as their later electronic era, she managed to create a perfect pop album.
As produced mainly by Ewan Pearson, Out Of The Woods seamlessly navigates between electronic landscapes and acoustic instrumentation, as if it was the most natural thing. The compass becomes Tracey’s razorsharp envisagements, brilliant compositions and that voice. Oh! That beautiful, embracing voice that embodies the music and the lyrics in a level that only few artists can caption these days.
So, to help you guide through this underrated masterpiece, I’ll provide you with a track-by-track review. Much enjoyment, folks!
HERE IT COMES AGAIN – As sheer as her vocals, as brittle is this little music box like first track, with delicate strings and the softest of touches a song could possibly have.
A-Z – The airy 80’s production with those gorgeous synthesizers and spacious arrangements gives Thorn’s heartbreaking and genuine tale of coming of age and in terms with you idendity in small town hell, a true feeling of nostalgia. Essentially she is a magnificent story teller, whether it be her own story or someone elses. It is so authentic, it could’ve been my story. (Hell, it is my story. To the extent that for my 40th birthday bash I translated it to Swedish and performed it. I called it Lexikon.)
IT’S ALL TRUE – Tracey’s declaration of love to her partner, Ben Watt, is crystal clear, heartfelt, crispy and surprisingly bouncy to be a Bedsit Disco Queen track. And it is bloody beautiful.
GET AROUND TO IT – The one track that took the longest time for me to adjust to. Her Arthur Russell-cover is delightful, but the song itself feels slightly awkward, as if I’ve put the sweater on inside out. But this gem grew on me and fits like a glove in the company of these ten Thorn classics..
HANDS UP TO THE CEILING – Here she reminisces her teenage idols, not in the mood you’d expect based on the title, instead her memories are delicately accompanied by a guitar and piano. Less is definitely so much more.
EASY – To capture those everyday, sometimes mundane moments and to make them enthralling in a few nuanced pop captions demands a magnificent lyricist and composer.
FALLING OFF A LOG – A song about waking up one day only to realize that the person you’ve loved and married, isn’t the one you expected. With Thorn’s brilliantly laconic way of describing the anxt in everyday observations, all you can do is to surrender. And cry your heart out.
NOWHERE NEAR – Another masterful look at everyday life at a different point in life when you’re somebody’s mother, you’re not good with sad news on the telly anymore and through it all you count your blessings. Sparsely arranged with her voice floating over those exquisite flutes and horns, and it is heartbreakingly gorgeous.
GRAND CANYON – The album’s club anthem is grand and subtle in one sweep, with that encouraging hook – “Everybody loves you here” – could help any lost soul find their course again.
BY PICCADILLY STATION I SAT DOWN AND WEPT – Ms. Thorn at her absolute best. She does not only put words to those bewildering queries one has at that point when love ends, she also channels that inner mayhem, those contradictory feelings of fear and relief.
RAISE THE ROOF – She finishes the album on a somewhat lighter note, on the dancefloor admiring the DJ (Ben, possibly?) raising the roof, yet in some wonderfully strange manner, she still manages to contemplate over her life and this time about lost chances, while seeking affirmation from the DJ that it’s not too late.
For nine years now, Out Of The Woods have more or less been the pop record to beat and yes, some have come close, but she still reigns, as the Bedsit Disco Queen she is.