Oh dear: a middle-age album. But if you're going to listen to a pop singer romanticize the ineffable vagaries of middle age and, yegods, menopause, wouldn't you rather listen to someone like Tracey Thorn, who's always carried herself with magnanimity and grace -- and who's not hungry for big hits because she's never really had any -- instead of some crisis-driven pop star upping the ick factor by singing about love as if he or she is still 22 and horny?
After making subtle torch-pop and listenable electronic music for 18 years as Everything But the Girl with partner (and now baby daddy) Ben Watt, Thorn returned in 2007 with her first solo album since 1982, still wearing the electronic bangles from EBTG. For "Love and Its Opposite," she lets most of that fall away in favor of bare, mostly acoustic piano-and-guitar arrangements that frame her calm voice in a '70s-'80s soft-rock manner, recalling anyone from Mary MacGregor to the less jaunty side of Annie Lennox.
Through it all, she's ruminating on life and love just this side of 50. With a stock of wisdom, she re-evaluates love, lamenting "Oh! The Divorces" but also remembering, in "Long White Dress," how she dreaded a wedding day herself (and has thus far never had one). In "You Are a Lover," she sums up the satisfying lack of zing in a late-life fling: "It's not a shame or a glory, just a romantic tale." Even her observations of "Hormones" avoid cliches and solipsism. Here's to growing old gracefully in pop music.