The Yes List—Tracey Thorn Dissects Marriage Through Song
Each week, The Daily Beast scours the cultural landscape to choose three top picks. This week, Tracey Thorn’s haunting album about long-term love, a film about the best bad father, and a cavernous art installation about the power of memory.
Tracey Thorn Dissects Marriage through Song
Tracey Thorn’s velvety smooth vocals are best known through her work as one half of the sophisticated pop duo Everything But the Girl—an 18-year-long partnership with her husband Ben Watt—but on her new solo album, Love and Its Opposite, Thorn surpasses her status as one half of a pair. In fact, the record’s focus is the challenge of relationships and how difficult it is to make a marriage work. Here, Thorn’s voice is pared down to acoustic arrangements in lush, chamber pieces, allowing her lyrics to shine through—and what you find is a woman deeply conflicted about marriage, long-term love, and staying in touch with one’s sexuality despite aging and predictability. In the opening song, “Oh, The Divorces!”, Thorn sings about the dissolution of true love, and she imagines the cold younger lives of her parents in “Kentish Town.” Love feels like the album Thorn needed to make, especially after her long hiatus to start a family with Watt; though she re-emerged with the brighter pop record Out of the Woods in 2007, this album feels like a connection with the deeper themes that affect all wives and mothers, and transcends one genre to become beautifully universal. Perhaps her duo should change its name to “The Girl, and Then Everything Else.”
The Joy of Deadbeat Dads
In the semi-autobiographical film Daddy Longlegs, filmmaker brothers Ben and Joshua Safdie examine a perplexing subject—a father who is at once both the best and the worst. In the movie, Lenny (Richard Bronstein, a filmmaker in his own right who helped edit Daddy), sees his two sons Sage and Frey for only a few weeks out of the year, but he is determined to make them weeks to remember. Lenny is volatile, argumentative, and unpredictable, which exasperates most adults in his life, but for his children, who have no choice but to look at him with the eyes of young, hopeful sons, his immaturity turns into ragtag fun. He’s manic, but also magical—or at least this is the way the Safdies show him from the boys’ point-of-view, a nod to their own mercurial, irresponsible, but also irresistible father figure. The critics are on board with the Safdies’ vision— Daddy Longlegs debuted to raves at Sundance. A.O. Scott of The New York Times calls the film “lovely and hair-raising,” while Joe Neumaier of the Daily News pays it a high compliment: “At its best, this beautiful, off-the-cuff comedy-drama recalls John Cassavetes' shaggiest, most honest work.”
Christian Boltanski’s Hall of the Forgotten
French artist Christian Boltanski, 65, has devoted his life’s work to remembering. He chronicled the names of long-forgotten artists who showed at the Venice Biennale, he has worked tirelessly to revive the voices and faces of those who perished in the Holocaust, and now, with his new installation, No Man’s Land, which takes up the cavernous Park Avenue Armory in New York, he turns his memory to natural disasters, or catastrophic events that displace a large amount of clothing. The exhibition consists of several piles of discarded clothes (30 tons, to be exact, from a supplier in New Jersey), and a giant red claw—think of an arcade machine—that picks up clothes from a large mound in the room’s center and drops them back again. An audio of human heartbeats plays, echoing throughout the hall, and there’s also a 66-foot-long wall of old biscuit tins. It seems morbid, but Linda Yablonsky of The New York Times deems the show, “More poignant than it is depressing ... dying remains a fact of life as well as art. For the surprisingly jolly Boltanski, it is ever-present.” On Art Beast, Anthony Haden-Guest talks to Christian Boltanski about his new exhibition, why people think he hates Marcel Duchamp, and the beauty of failure.