How's that for romantic security and supreme confidence? And Everything But The Girl's Tracey Thorn has every reason to be so self-assured. She's an apparently happily married wife, mother and one of the best singers on the planet. (Interesting tidbit: She once told me that her favorite singer is Patti Smith, and she'd love to sound like that, but her voice just won't go there.) My soundtrack of the last two days has been her way-underappreciated 2007 solo album, Out Of The Woods. It's probably one of my Top 10 favorite CDs of the '00s (that list: coming soon), and I can't understand why it wasn't a much bigger hit.
"Boy, you’ve been on the wrong road/Wearing someone else’s shoes/Who told you you were not what you were meant to be?/And got you paying someone else’s dues?" -- Tracey Thorn, "Grand Canyon"
I was never really into Everything But The Girl until Tracey and her husband/musical partner Ben Watt began incorporating electronic sounds like drum 'n' bass and trip hop into their music with 1996's Walking Wounded, another near-pop masterpiece. The beauty of Out Of The Woods is the way it merges both sides of EBTG, the acoustic coffee-house pop of their early work and their later chilled-out electro-pop experiments, without really sounding anything like EBTG.
"Do you ever wonder where love goes?/Up there in the ether I suppose/Sometimes it burns enough to leave a trace in the air/The ghost of me and you in a parallel world somewhere" -- Tracey Thorn, "By Picadilly Station I Sat Down And Wept"
She gets the balance perfectly right. Songs like "Here It Goes Again," "Hands Up To The Ceiling," "Nowhere Near" (a touching exploration of what it feels like for a girl who's suddenly middle aged) and "By Picadilly Station I Sat Down And Wept" are soft and delicate, with Tracey baring her wounded soul alternately over stately strings, acoustic guitars or sad piano melodies. "A-Z," "Easy" and "Falling Off A Log" are breathtakingly lovely, majestic and atmospheric, slow-building crescendos of flawless singing, while "It's All True," "Get Around To It," "Grand Canyon" (one of my Top 100 Swinging Singles of the Aughts: #25) and "Raise The Roof" pick up the tempo for maximum under-the-strobelight enjoyment. There is not a single dud in the bunch, which is a pop-album rarity indeed.
"Why did I wait?/Why did I wait?/Don't tell me it's too late/Don't tell me it's too late" -- Tracey Thorn, "Raise The Roof"
Why did she wait? No clue. Coming eight years after EBTG's last studio album, Temperamental, and 25 years after A Distant Shore, Tracey's solo debut, Out Of The Woods is late, yes. But better late than never.
Tracey Thorn "It's All True"