Over the course of her thirty year career, Tracey Thorn has made practically everything: lo-fi cult records with Marine Girls; chart topping megahits with Everything But The Girl; classic, genre-defining solo albums. Now, she's turning to Christmas songs.
"Every year, when the Christmas albums start appearing in November, I get jealous and wish I had one coming out," Thorn writes. Finally, the British singer and songwriter is getting her wish. "Last year, I made a resolution to get recording in January to be ready for the following Christmas. And so that's just what I did."
Tinsel And Lights (out Oct. 30) is not wholly dedicated to tinsel, trees and cookie tins. It's also a celebration of all things wintry, through a combination of covers, one traditional, and a few originals -- including the title track, and the album opener, "Joy." Never treacly under Thorn's watch, the collection is threaded through by her strong, steady voice, elements of the electro-folk sound that she pioneered and defined, and her inventive arrangements. Thorn warms up The White Stripes' spare "In The Cold, Cold Night" with a lightly fluttered electric blanket; she strips bare and re-kindles Sufjan Stevens' melanchonic "Sister Winter"; and she brings in a brass band to wrap around Joni Mitchell's "River" like a woolen cloak.
Like any good holiday gathering, this is a friends and family affair. The record features EBTG collaborator and partner Ben Watt on guitar and piano, Hot Chip's Leo Taylor at the drum kit, Steve Pearce on bass, and a cameo by Green Gartside from Scritti Politti. Plus background caroling courtesy of the "Watt Family Vocal Choir" -- Watt, Thorn and their three children in perfect harmony.
This is the time of year where we are barraged with an onslaught of new holiday albums that range from sweet to saccharine -- this year, the crop includes releases from the likes of Lady Antebellum, Olivia Newton-John & John Travolta and Rod Stewart with friends Dave Koz and Michael Buble. But here, on Tinsel And Lights? There's no Scrooging on this kind of "Joy."
Audio is no longer available for this feature. But you can hear "In The Cold, Cold Night" via Soundcloud, below: