Effortlessly brilliant, from the groove to the arrangement to the dusky authority of Tracey Thorn’s voice, “Sister” is as elegant and urgent an electronic anthem as you’re likely to hear this year (this decade?; ever?). That she even needs to write this here in 2018 is ridiculous, which she admits herself in the lyrics (“Oh, what year is it/Still arguing the same shit”), and yet with all the knuckleheads—real and fake—out there arguing in favor of white male supremacy, well, here she is, fighting (also from the lyrics) “like a girl,” which I take to be a powerful thing indeed.
And what really renders this so potent is the gorgeous depth of the sound—a deft mix of a subtly languorous disco beat, incisive percussive twizzles, and Thorn’s honeyed alto, arguably more commanding than ever. (One of many glorious vocal moments in this song comes right after the first “fight like a girl” line, where she first exhales the word “girl” into two syllables and then at 1:09 stretches the word with an extra sigh that penetrates the soul.)
Be warned that this is a long one, some eight-plus minutes, the last three or so committed to extending the groove rather than the content of the song. But none of it is mindless; there are shifts in sounds and effects, and a maintenance of the song’s nuanced tension that keeps my ear and mind engaged all the way through.
“Sister” is literally the centerpiece of Record, Thorn’s latest album—the fifth of nine songs, each a one-word title, mirroring the all but ironic simplicity of the album name itself. Record was released in March on Merge Records, and is her fourth post-Everything But The Girl solo release, her first since the wonderful 2012 Christmas album Tinsel and Lights. MP3 via KEXP. Thorn was previously featured on Fingertips in March 2010.