Cooking Vinyl

Thea Gilmore

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It’s been 15 years and eight albums since Thea released Avalanche, her critically acclaimed fifth release and the album deemed to be her breakthrough record. The then 23-year-old was writing with a fire inside her post 9/11 about global anxiety and the increasingly vacuous celebrity culture.

She then released The Counterweight in 2017. An album full of passion and fire inside to protest, and an album that echoes the rapid change in our social and political landscape that 2016 brought with it.  Having never entirely lost her voice of protest, on subsequent albums Thea was looking inward more, singing songs about the depression she had been diagnosed with, love songs in uncertain times and songs about parenthood.

The Counterweight is as pretty as it is thought-provoking, as bewitching as it is bold, and will come as no surprise to her army of admirers. Since releasing her debut as a teenager nearly 20 years ago, the Oxfordshire-raised, Cheshire-based singer and songwriter has gained global acclaim for making music not only of extraordinary beauty, but of rare honesty and insight.

What will surprise fans is how The Counterweight sounds. Fifteen albums in, Thea has all but abandoned her trusty acoustic guitar in favour of an iPad and a piano. The change forced her out of her comfort zone in to exploring new methods of composing as well as new ways of recording.

The Counterweight marks a fresh start, its outward-looking themes – the shifting political landscape, our absorption in technology, America’s gun culture and the search for hope in times of trouble included – bear striking similarities to Thea’s 2003 breakthrough album Avalanche. So much so, in fact, that the singer considers The Counterweight a companion album to Avalanche, or more accurately, “its more mature older sister”.

Despite its hefty themes, The Counterweight is as catchy as it is current, delving in to disco and pure pop and boasting glorious strings, intriguing samples, shimmering soundscapes and pretty piano. Where it might have been mournful, it’s often airy and optimistic. Where it does delve in to darkness, it also glimpses light.

Then Thea released another album in 2017 titled Extended Playground, making that her 16th album.