It can’t be easy being Thea Gilmore. Widely hailed as one of the best songwriters of her generation, yet receiving almost no radio play and little media coverage. She’s been releasing high quality music now for the last eight years or so, but registers negligible sales. She displays traditional singer-songwriter strengths, but she doesn’t fall in to the traps that so many of her contemporaries have. Meanwhile any number of gimmicky girly singers are getting radio play and media coverage.
Perhaps Gilmore’s most commercial moment to date is Avalanche. The production is much more radio-friendly than her previous work, which although it sounds a little bit like a compromise in places, does suit most of the material quite well. There’s also the fact that she’s dabbled in vaguely trip-hop musical backdrops and even light-jazz in places, which although worthy, detracts from the quality of the writing slightly.
This is still Thea Gilmore though and therefore offers something a little different to her contemporaries. It’s not as if she doesn’t tip the hat to her influences though as “Mainstream” sounds like a feminine mix of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Rocking In The Free World” and as a result is by far and away the most commercial point on Avalanche.
Despite Gilmore making some well chosen compromises in the name of radio play and studio trickery, this is still a strong album and it can be an effecting listen if you just sit back with the lights out and let it wash over you. It may not be quite as direct and driven as Rules for Jokers, but it’s a strong follow up.
A dozen years later and Thea Gilmore is still awaiting her commercial breakthrough. If all else fails though, she may yet get re-discovered by future generations as those of us with an ear for a fine voice and great lyrics get our music collections raided by our children. After all, that’s how I got started.