mon 20/10/2014

CD: Tracey Thorn – Tinsel and Lights | New music reviews, news & interviews

CD: Tracey Thorn – Tinsel and Lights

Carefully chosen seasonal songs coalesce with a reflective intimacy

Tracey Thorn's 'Tinsel and Lights': an album for all seasons

It’s got to be difficult making a Christmas album. Not only are there all the preceding offerings which must weigh heavily, there’s the practical issue that it has to be completed way before any seasonal release date. For those choosing to make one, Christmas must be summoned early. The frosty, reflective mood created has to feel genuine even if the sun is blazing. With the seemingly effortless Tinsel and Lights, Tracey Thorn has made an album that suits any season. Its gentle pensiveness isn’t just for Christmas.

Although Tinsel and Lights draws its songs from a raft of writers, it’s a unified album. Jack White’s sinuous “In the Cold, Cold Night” is a cosy partner to Ron Sexsmith's rolling “Maybe This Christmas”. The only instantly familiar song is string-suffused “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, which in Thorn’s hands hints towards k.d. lang. Beyond this classic, the other more venerable contributions come from the pens of Joni Mitchell and Randy Newman. A swaying “Snow in the Sun” by Scritti Politti's Green Gartside trails the appearance of Gartside himself on a version of Low's“Taking Down the Tree”. Thorn herself contributes the sensitive “Joy” and the supremely warm, yet bittersweet, title track.

The seamlessness of Tinsel and Lights shouldn’t surprise as, although Thorn has never travelled a straight path, she has always exuded an intimacy which embraces, whether working with Massive Attack or on Love and its Opposite, her sparse last album. Tinsel and Lights is more than a Christmas album; it's an acknowledgment by Thorn of the songs and songwriters with whom she feels a kinship.

Kieron Tyler’s blog

Watch Tracey Thorn discussing Tinsel and Lights

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