Tracey Thorn

Out of the Woods

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Raising three children kept Tracey Thorn all but completely away from music for several years. Apart from appearing on Tiefschwarz's "Damage," she was completely absent since 1999, while husband and Everything But the Girl partner Ben Watt continued DJing and operating his Buzzin' Fly label. Thorn even thought it possible at one point that she might not record again, but she has returned with help from several collaborators to make her second solo album, released 25 years after her first. Despite the changes in her life, as well as the varied backgrounds of the producers, Out of the Woods is not the least bit out of character. It is a mellow, melodic album that switches between stripped-down, folk-inspired material, downtempo pop, and up-to-date productions designed for both home and club listening. Thorn has returned as if she never went away, sounding completely at ease without Watt. She's still, for the most part, singing about love; "A-Z," in which a young outsider, fed up with being beaten and teased, leaves her small town for the city, is the only instance where parenthood might have had an effect on her songwriting. The timely production touches are a more than adequate fit for Thorn's subdued but emotive vocals, just as effective as the drum'n'bass elements on EBTG's last two albums. "It's All True," produced by Ewan Pearson with Darshan Jesrani and Klas Lindblad, is the prime highlight -- bounding synth stabs, sweetened strings, percolating percussion accents, and the kind of near-ecstatic vocal turn that only Thorn could deliver -- utilizing a modernized mutation of the post-disco/pre-house boogie era (as exemplified by Jesrani and Morgan Geist's Metro Area). While the beginning-to-end level of quality is expected from Thorn, it's remarkable that the album comes after such an extended absence. And, despite the number of idiosyncratic collaborators -- all of whom established themselves after Temperamental -- it achieves cohesion and sounds exactly like a Tracey Thorn album.

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