Tracey Thorn “Tinsel and Lights” (Merge)
A gorgeous album of yuletide melancholy, “Tinsel and Lights” offers the perfect setting for former Everything But The Girl vocalist Tracey Thorn's resonant alto, an instrument that has deepened since her former project's halcyon days. “You loved it as a kid, and now you need it more than you ever did,” Thorn sings on her original opener “Joy,” a perfect thesis for an album of songs about being an adult and trying to recapture Christmas spirit.
Thorn only delivers two standards in the set, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and Joni Mitchell's “River,” but she makes wise choices throughout, covering the wonderful “Hard Candy Christmas” (made famous by Dolly Parton) as well, songs by the White Stripes (“In the Cold, Cold Night”), Stephen Merritt (“Like a Snowman”), Sufjan Stevens (“Sister Winter”) and Scritti Politti's Green Gartside (“Snow in Sun”). Thorn duets with Gartside on Low's “Taking Down the Tree,” capturing the bittersweet nostalgia that sometimes comes during the season and permeates almost every track on “Tinsel and Lights.”
— George Lang