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Tracey Thorn streams thoughtful holiday album 'Tinsel and Lights'

November 27, 2012|By Mikael Wood
  • Tracey Thorn says she wanted "Tinsel and Lights" to go beyond traditional holiday fare, so she included songs that mentioned "winter or snow or just being cold -- anything at all."
Tracey Thorn says she wanted "Tinsel and Lights" to go beyond… (Edward Bishop )

With Thanksgiving behind us, it's official -- the holiday season has begun.

And that means it's now fully appropriate to break out the Christmas music, something we at Pop & Hiss can admit we began inappropriately doing a few weeks ago. Check out Randy Lewis' recent roundup of this year's new offerings -- including albums from Cee Lo Green, Scotty McCreery and the rather zombie-eyed coupling of Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta -- here.

Among 2012's standouts, as Randy noted, is Tracey Thorn's "Tinsel and Lights," on which the English art-pop singer (and occasional Everything But the Girl frontwoman) takes her characteristic brainy-sadsack approach to material a bit outside the Christmas-music canon. Among Thorn's selections are the White Stripes' "In the Cold, Cold Night," Stephin Merritt's "Like a Snowman" and Low's "Taking Down the Tree," performed as a duet with Green Gartside of the great Scritti Politti.

In a making-of documentary posted by MTV Hive on Monday, Thorn says she didn't want to make "a completely traditional Christmas record" and so opened up the repertoire to songs "that either mentioned Christmas or winter or snow or just being cold -- anything at all." (Watch the 10-minute video below.)

A couple of more conventional numbers do make the cut, such as "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "Hard Candy Christmas" from "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." Thorn does a nice job with the latter -- which Dolly Parton made a country hit in 1982 -- though we'll admit we're partial to the heartbreaking version Leigh Nash (of Sixpence None the Richer) included on her weirdly excellent 2006 holiday set, "Wishing for This."

Listen to Thorn's rendition at NPR Music (where "Tinsel and Lights" is streaming in full) and decide for yourself which is best. But be forewarned: As some of those song titles suggest, the album is less suited to Christmas-party merriment than to a quiet moment of post-shopping reflection. Allow it -- and several boozy eggnogs -- to repair the damage done by the Grove.


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