Whether you're a staid traditionalist or irony-stoked hipster, with Tracey Thorn's Tinsel and Lights you get both the winter and the wonderful. Rising from the muck and gaggle of holiday albums that speak volumes of label contract obligations and finding an easy, queasy buck (we're looking at you Rod Stewart), Thorn's eclectic and un-schmaltzy seasonal collection mixes a few standards brilliantly updated with a grab bag of divinely obscure (and delightfully unpredictable) indie gems that go hand in, well, mitten. At the heart of Tinsel and Lights is Thorn's remarkable, distinctive voice, an instrument that can sound sweet and melancholy within a single note and impart the softest, airiest texture before hitting that tiny vibrato that seems to be emanating from the coolest, most restrained shiver. From Joni Mitchell's "River" -- hold the "oh not again" til you hear it -- to Sufjan Stevens "Sister Winter" to Jack White's barren and raw "In the Cold Cold Night" to a couple of her own songs ("Joy", the title track), Thorn's effortless singing and the album's treacle-free production give Tinsel and Lights its own warm glow and make it the finest, most beautifully detailed holiday album we've heard in years.
Tracey Thorn - "River" (from Tinsel and Lights)
Tracey Thorn - "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" (from Tinsel and Lights)
Photo Credit: Edward Bishop