Thea Gilmore

The Counterweight

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Singer and songwriter Thea Gilmore has said that she considers her 16th studio album, The Counterweight, to be a companion piece to her 2003 breakthrough, Avalanche. While that album was written in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, 2017's The Counterweight addresses some of the political instability and acts of violence in a volatile 2016. "Johnny Gets a Gun," for instance, is a response to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. With little patience for "boys will be boys," it's a percussive, chant-like number packed with technology and pop culture references ("Live like the Waltons, dream Tarantino"). Elsewhere, "Reconcile" was written in the context of the Brexit referendum, and "The War" reacts to the murder of Labour Party MP Jo Cox. Opening the album is the elegant "Fall Together." A tender but ominous track, it starts with Gilmore's voice over a simple, repeated piano motif, eventually adding electronic tones and string voices. With a cautionary tone shared by much of the album, it carries the drama of an early Bond theme ("I've got two little birds caged right here in my ribs/To keep them safe from saboteurs and arsonists"). Meanwhile, a song like the disco-tinged "New" is all about personal discovery. Despite some timeless subject matter and the fact that history has an ugly way of repeating itself, the album is very much of its time, both in the way it addresses specific events (though without explicitly naming them) and by making reference to things like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (all three make appearances here). Tonally, she counters urgency with some tenderness, and her voice only seems to be getting better with time. It's a compelling entry in her catalog, one with a solid base of songs that will stand up to any nonsense.

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