Tracey Thorn Tinsel and Lights

Tracey ThornTinsel and Lights
This is a wonderfully sincere and very listenable collection of songs from Everything But The Girl's Tracey Thorn, most of which have a connection to the festive season, although sometimes it's a little on the vague side. Not that it matters because like just a handful of other Christmas albums, this is a record that works on its own merits rather than being a cynical cash-grab. Thorn shows impeccable taste when it comes to picking covers, not always settling for the obvious or clichéd. Instead, there's her take on Scritti Politti's "Snow in Sun" and Stephin Merritt's "Like A Snowman" to help balance out the more typical "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas." Not everything works; her version of the White Stripes' "In the Cold, Cold Night" is a little bland, but its unexpected nature makes it interesting at least. Her contributions are just the type of Christmas songs you'd expect Thorn to write: melancholy, yet quietly optimistic. They both rank amongst the album's highpoints, along with her cover of Sufjan Stevens' "Sister Winter" and the sparse take on Joni Mitchell's "River," with its lovely brass band accompaniment. Tinsel and Lights might not reach the heady heights of Low's Christmas, despite sharing a song, but it's still a Christmas album well worth returning to year after year. (Merge)