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Song of the Day: Lucie Thorne, “Big Decision”

Lucie Thorne is a female folk-rock singer-songwriter who grew up in Tasmania and got her start in Melbourne, Australia. She writes mostly quiet songs, variously autobiographical, introspective and intelligent, emotionally dense and intense, with a few more or less topical or political songs scattered in the mix, and she sings regularly – or at least did in her earlier work – of relationships between women.

All of which inevitably suggests comparisons with Ani DiFranco. Ani must be a sort of bugaboo for female folk-rock musicians who began their career in the late 1990s or early 2000s, the inevitable point of comparison, and a hard act to follow. But in fact, beyond what is there in that bare outline, I see few points of comparison between the two. Thorne’s music just sounds different. That said, there is no escaping the overlap between the following song and Ani’s “You Had Time,” about which I wrote recently

Lucie Thorne, “Big Decision” – from Botticelli Blue Eyes (2002)

Where Ani’s song opened with her plinking on the piano, Thorne begins by plinking on what I think is a variety of kalimba. In both, the tune is then picked up by the guitar. But the powerful similarities between the two songs come in the lyrics (those for “Big Decision” are below, those for “You Had Time” in my previous post), in the story they tell. In both, the singer has to confront their “you,” their lover, with their “big decision.” And in both, the singers have to acknowledge that they don’t love the other as much or in the same way. And in both, the decision is, as Thorne puts it, “thank you much more than you know / but I’m gonna go.”

Both are tender about it, loving, sad, but still they’re “going to go.”  Though perhaps, just perhaps, we can hear in Thorne’s repeated statement that she’s “gotta go / going to go” someone who knows they ought to go, says they are “going to go,” but can’t quite bring themselves to leave. Not yet. Just one verse more, one moment more with you…

“Big Decision” is from Thorne’s fourth album (the first three are no longer available), 2002’s Botticelli Blue Eyes. It’s a wonderful album, full of wonderful songs – perhaps the finest, and certainly my favorite, being “Stubborn.” Botticelli seems to have been the breakthrough album for Thorne. The album and her extensive touring in support of it brought her some real critical and popular attention, and expanded her already not-insignificant fan base. It’s also the album in which her sound really emerges in a mature form. Her subsequent albums have built powerfully on the voice and sound of Botticelli without departing too much from the path it lays down – which is good, as it’s a good path, and one that seems to suit her, artistically and temperamentally.

I’ve been lucky enough to see her live a few times, always in small venues that suit her performing style, and I have to say that she is one of those artists that is best live, in the sense that her CDs don’t always capture what is best about her, and in the sense that she is really just an amazing performer. Even when I saw her the first time, when she was touring in support of Botticelli and still somewhat shy as a performer, she had a power and emotional intensity that was really a knockout, at times almost unsettling in the intimacy it conjured up. It was one of those concerts where everyone – and I do mean everyone – went up afterward to buy a CD, and to be near to her. The raw emotionality of her performance really called out for the coming down provided by that less charged, post-show interaction, as well as the sense of a continuing connection with her that buying the CD provided. Sort of like spooning, or a cigarette, after sex; it was that intense.

Her most recent release, from 2009, is Black Across the Field. Here she is performing “Open Sky” off that album, live in Sydney:

What Others Are Saying

Her style is a frequently sparse, languid and evocative form of folk-rock. (via Lucie Thorne –

Described as “Australia’s PJ Harvey… possessing the punch of Cat Power and the wise words of Joni Mitchell” (Courier Mail), Lucie Thorne has earned her place as one of the most striking lyricists and voices of Australian contemporary song. Her latest release, Black Across The Field, has garnered extraordinary attention from the country’s leading critics, including being awarded ‘Best Roots Album of 2009’ in The Sydney Morning Herald, and was Short Listed for the prestigious Australian Music Prize. (via Black Across The Field by Lucie Thorne – VITAMIN RECORDS.)

Lucie Thorne has earned her place as one of the most striking lyricists and voices of the recent indie rock and roots scenes and with her latest release – “Black Across the Field” – she has garnered some extraordinary attention from the country’s leading critics. Described as “diverse, profound, breath-taking” (Rhythms), “intelligent …. gorgeous” (The Australian, 4 stars), “spellbinding” (J-Mag) and Thorne as “a gentle chanteuse who has delivered quiet perfection” (Bernard Zuel, SMH), Thorne combines spacious gritty rock n roll and startlingly original dark-folk, with that signature warmth and intimacy for which her live shows have become so renowned. “Black Across The Field” has just been announced as one of the Short Listed Albums for the 2009 Australian Music Prize. (via Yackandandah Folk Festival > Artists.)

Reviewing 2007’s When The Lights Go Down in the Sydney Morning Herald, Bernard Zuel writes:

There are only two people in the room when you’re listening to this album: Lucie Thorne and you. There is a band (of which, more later) and co-producer Thorne does not put herself any more forward than necessary but extraneous noises, other people in the house, floating voices on the wind, all drift away as you listen.

There is such an intensity of feeling here that you feel guilty even lifting your attention away briefly, like inadvertently yawning from the tension while a friend is telling you a compelling secret.

However, what is particularly striking about this effect is that there is no sense of claustrophobia, none of that overwhelming sucking-up of all the space that some one-on-one albums can manifest.

Thorne isn’t insisting on your attention; she just gives you little reason to want to leave or lose focus. Which is why at the end you don’t feel wrung out but rather, enlivened.

In mood and approach the closest comparison I can make is with Emmylou Harris’s Wrecking Ball album. There is a similar thickened atmosphere, a similar collection of stories that speaks small but resonates much bigger and a similar build-up of moody folk, country noir and the spookily atmospheric hints of Kate Bush.

Then there is the way Thorne occupies the centre, singing just above a whisper, conversationally you might say, but landing deceptively solid blows. She marks out her space with some fabulous sensuality, never more so than in When The Lights Go Down, which says everything without having to say much at all.

Drummer Hamish Stuart and bass player David Symes (who both co-produced) will probably mostly go unheralded as this album becomes better known but their fluidity, a feather-light jazz touch, is absolutely crucial to the success of the songs. In the quietest moments, they never impose, never seem to be pulling you in any direction but guide you with deft rhythmic paths that keep an undercurrent of movement. There is something of the subtle rhythms Van Morrison had at his disposal in Astral Weeks.

And when Thorne opens the throttle a little, Stuart and Symes can add a bit of blues heft just as easily without feeling the need to compete. Build your album around this kind of intuitive skill and you’re well on the way to something pretty special. Thorne has done just that.

For more…


Lucie Thorne, “Big Decision”

I do not expect that you’ll
be too happy about this.
I do not expect that you’ll feel
too kindly towards me now.

But here I stand with my
big decision, I know
that I’ve made it before
Now I’m gonna go.

It’s painful to see
the way that you like me.
Be easy if we all had a switch
could just turn it off, and turn it off.
You know sometimes I wish
that you never saw me like this.

Now that you’ve asked me to stay
I’ve got to say
thank you much more than you know
but I’m gonna go
I’m going to go
I’ve gotta go
going to go
I’ve gotta go

Here I stand with my
big decision, I know
that I’ve made it before
Now I’m gonna go
I’m going to go
I’ve gotta go
going to go
I’ve gotta go

Filed under: Song of the Day, , ,

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zerode by nick chapman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Oh - and hello to Jason Isaacs.

The 400 Blows


is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, cinéaste, and former poet. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.


What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.

tweeting my mind



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