Lazy Ways/Beach Party,North Marine Drive/Summer INto,Cheery REd/Cooking Vinyl/spinART 901

Prior to forming the hit-bound Everything but the Girl in the mid-'80s, Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn pursued under-the-radar solo careers.

Prior to forming the hit-bound Everything but the Girl in the mid-'80s, Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn pursued under-the-radar solo careers. Thorn's solo endeavor, as well as her two albums with the Marine Girls, reveal an artist who was taking her songwriting seriously from day one. "Small Town Girl," the lead track on A Distant Shore, is signature Thorn melancholia; also, a cover of the Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale" remains breathtaking after all these years. Similarly, the beautifully quiet North Marine Drive focuses squarely on Watt's folky guitar strummings and effortless vocals. His five-song collaboration with Robert Wyatt—Summer Into Winter—is perhaps too minimally atmospheric for its own good. But the jazzy "Slipping Slowly" and celestial "A Girl in Winter" are gems.—MP