Holiday discs 2012: Tracey Thorn's Tinsel and Lights

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Tracey Thorn
Tinsel and Lights

Naturally, it takes a constitutionally miserable Brit to make a truly decent Christmas record. Deceptively bland title aside, Thorn’s choice of material on Tinsel and Lights is already gripping before we’ve even heard a note or that signature voice of hers. Songs by Randy Newman (“Snow”), Dolly Parton (“Hard Candy Christmas”), Sufjan Stevens (“Sister Winter”), even Jack White (“In the Cold, Cold Night”)—they all get an airing here, cunningly chosen to create an emotionally nuanced take on the season, rather than just another stupid sing-along record. Even Joni Mitchell’s covered-to-death “River” makes sense in this context, with Thorn’s striking brass-band arrangement, while her analogue-synth reworking of Low’s “Taking Down the Tree” (which she duets with treacle-voiced Green Gartside of Scritti Politti) is an awesome, towering thing, like a deadly black-ice pileup on Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” (at Christmas).

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