With Tinsel And Lights, Tracey Thorn sidesteps the mindlessly cheerful mood that sets in at Christmastime. The collection of cautiously joyful yuletide tunes bears all the hallmarks of the former Everything But the Girl singer/songwriter's restraint, realism and sobering melancholy.
Composed mostly of covers of songs by Dolly Parton, the White Stripes, Joni Mitchell and Ron Sexsmith, among others, chosen for their secular wintry evocations, the album embraces the holiday anxiety often overlooked in the modern Christmas canon while nodding to the sentimental with an ace rendition of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.
It's a delicate line to walk, and Thorn succeeds through low-key, simple arrangements and her empathetic, sensible voice, which has the all-seeing authority of a storybook narrator. Opening track Joy, one of two original songs, sets the tone by acknowledging that while Christmas often reassures you with "what you want to hear," deep down "you know it might be different in the New Year."
Top track: Joy