Tracey Thorn's third solo album, Love and Its Opposite, focuses on the big topics outlined in its title, but it does so in miniature; both lyrically and musically, it's a record about the small details that make up the most mundane and wrenching moments of a person's day-to-day life.
Thorn, who also was the vocalist for the dance duo Everything but the Girl (a collaboration with her longtime partner and now-husband Ben Watt), has a rich, mournful alto that can express in a single syllable what other musicians struggle to say over the course of entire careers. It helps that her lyrics are full of novelistic details that sum up entire character backstories in the space of a few words; in "Oh, the Divorces!" she sings of "the afternoon handovers by the swings" that a now-dissolved couple has to endure, while the narrator in "Singles Bar" details the waxing and French manicuring she goes through in order to properly prepare for her on-the-town peacocking.
The music on Love and Its Opposite also cuts to the quick; the arrangements exist in such a way that they sound like they've been whittled down to only their most essential parts. "Hormones," which chronicles the arguments between a mother and daughter, crackles with handclaps and spunk, while the failing-relationship lament "Why Does the Wind?" is laced with a spooky keyboard line that echoes the eyes-lowered sadness of the lyrics. The immediate intimacy of the music, when combined with the lyrics' forthrightness, feels like a late-night chat session between friends who are ready to tell their stories, no matter how painful they might have been to live through when they were unfolding.