If there was ever an album to sum up the past few years of current affairs, Thea Gilmore’s The Counterweight could well be the that album. Opening with an airy lull of piano and lyrics, “I’ve got two little birds right here in my ribs,” in Fall Together, we are being prepared for an album riding into a storm of classic Gilmore. But what may take a few avid followers by surprise is the elements of electronic samples and the pulsating beat in the likes of Leatherette, and the clever, social media lyrics to keep up with the times, over haunting keys. Within the first two songs of the album Gilmore definitely crosses the namesake of this album, but it is not as simple as that.
Subject matters are both light-hearted and dark and Gilmore’s acrobatic delivery of her vocals is something to be admired. Gilmore has dipped in and out of genres but The Counterweight definitely sees her crossing and nailing the boundaries as she tackles recent issues such as the Brexit referendum in Reconcile. Intentional or not, what is wonderful about this track is that the melody is like a fairground, which mimics how Brexit is being played out. Gilmore’s lyrics of ‘play the game…fake a smile…’ even has this. Then we go to the other extreme as she deals with the tragedy of Jo Cox’s murder with The War, when Gilmore sings, “you can cut that stem, but wild flowers grow again”…it is a great testament to Cox’s legacy.
Elsewhere on the record have the sing-along anthems through the likes of Sounds Good To Me. Every ingredient of a pop-song is here. Without getting too deep and dark Another Damn Love Song lends itself to this too – it is essentially a song about not wanting to fall in love with being in love. Without these tracks, The Counterweight would be heavy on the heart to listen, but still very much something that needs to be heard.
The stand out track though is Johnny Gets A Gun, which starts with crashing drums like a battle cry to the events of school shootings. Samples of what sounds like a schoolyard of children makes it even raw but with the repetitive claps it draws you in. It’s hard-hitting. It’s real. It’s relevant and it gets you involved.
Counterweight, definition: is a weight that, by exerting an opposite force, provides balance and stability of a mechanical system.
And this is what Thea Gilmore gives us with this album. Throughout the darkness addressed there is always a light and once we find that light, it is like a new beginning as the aptly titled New gives us, as Gilmore states, “blank page…call this day one.”