Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Album Review: Tinsel and Lights by Tracey Thorn

When I saw that this album was coming out and would be available in vinyl I decided to get it. It's the first album I've bought in years but with the new trend in vinyl releases I wanted to get one and see what it's like. In this case I bought directly from Merge records and along with the album came some Christmas cards, wrapping paper, a poster, and a code to download the album in digital format for free. On top of that you get a high quality vinyl record with a wonderful sleeve and that fun experience of putting on a new record.

All in all I completely understand why vinyl sales are growing. If you really like an artist or an album the experience with vinyl is much greater than you get with a CD or just buying a digital copy. In this case the vinyl cost me around $18.00 which I think is a pretty good deal. Of course I'm a big Tracey Thorn fan and was happy to pay a little extra for something of hers.

I honestly didn't look that closely at the content of the album when I decided to purchase it. Was it a collection of standards or all new songs, I didn't know and didn't care. As I said my reasoning was more for the experience than anything else and so when I put the album on I had no idea what to expect.

This is not your standard Christmas album. I shouldn't have been surprised. Everything But the Girl has one of my favorite lines about Christmas in their song "Come on Home" that says "Every day is like Christmas day without you, it's cold and there's nothing to do."  I always liked that line about Christmas because it captures something about Christmas that we all feel, especially in our early 20's, but don't really express so simply.

When she decided to make Tinsel and Lights she set out to make a unique Christmas album.  It's not a collection of standards or all new work.  It is in fact a very well thought out and constructed album that takes songs about Christmas from people like Jack White, Randy Newman, Sufjan Stevens, etc. with two originals thrown in.  These songs, brought together as they are, create a very middle aged view of Christmas.  Let's just say this would not be an album to throw on for singalongs, but it could be an album you throw on with your wife after the kids are in bed, or while sitting at home alone separated from people you love.  It is not depressing, but it is thoughtful and makes you think about what makes Christmas such a wonderful and emotional time of year.

As one reviewer noted she sets the tone with the opener "Joy" one of her originals.  In it she has the line,  "You loved it as a kid/But now you need it more than you ever did."  As an adult facing responsibilities and dealing with tragedies, there is a need for Christmas that in many ways is much greater than the need you ever had as a kid.  A time to feel joy and express the joy and love you have for your family and friends.

I am a big fan of Tracey Thorn and so maybe that has clouded my thinking, but I honestly believe this may be the best Christmas album ever made.  Like I said it's not for every occasion and not for fun, but I really appreciate the effort that went into the song selection and song production.  Tracey Thorn turned 50 this year and to my way of thinking this is the kind of work at 50 someone like her should be producing.  It reflects her experience and tries to approach Christmas from a angle that I found to be quite unique and thought provoking.

Following the Rhapsody rating method I give it 4 out of 5 stars for Really Good.