Tinsel and Lights

Tinsel and Lights

by Tracey Thorn


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There is something about the melancholy quality in Tracey Thorn's voice that would seem to make the idea of a Christmas album by her improbable. But Tinsel and Lights is no ordinary Christmas album. It is as singular in its choice of material as Thorn's voice is. Produced by Ewan Pearson (who helmed 2010's Love and Its Opposite), there is only one standard, in "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." The rest is compiled from material written by more contemporary composers: Randy Newman, Carol Hall, Joni Mitchell, Scritti Politti's Green Gartside, Stephin Merritt, Ron Sexsmith, Low, Jack White, and Sufjan Stevens. Thorn also contributes a pair of fine originals. For Everything But the Girl fans, Ben Watt plays on eight of these 12 cuts. Thorn's opener, "Joy," sets the tone for the album. Backed by her piano, an electric guitar, keyboards, and bass, she lays out the hard truth of Christmas for many: "You loved it as a kid/But now you need it more than you ever did...We'll gather up our fears/And face down all the coming years/And all that they destroy/And in their face we throw our joy...." the toughness of that spirit is more vulnerable in Hall's "Hard Candy Christmas," but it is unwavering. In Sexsmith's "Maybe This Christmas," Thorn draws out what the season is supposed to mean, even in the face of human failings. "In the Cold Cold Night" shifts gears. Thorn strips away the rock histrionics to get at something far more sultry and bold; it generates real adult heat. Gartside makes a duet appearance, but not on his "Snow in Sun." On Low's "Taking Down the Tree," their duet works partly because of the sharp contrast to the original's musical arrangement (though this one is spare too) but also in the way their very different voices get at a lyric that balances sadness and near-instant nostalgia. Thorn wrote the title track, and its time-weathered wisdom is countered by the cheery arrangement. When she sings "Something almost true was in the air," the listener is touched by notions of Christmases past that nearly lived up to their hype. Yet, when she offers the closing lines: "You kissed me in the snow and that was when/I fell in love with Christmas once again," she turns the narrative on its head, ending in hope. In Stevens' sad, gray, "Sister Winter," she sends it off with both an honesty and bravery in the face of loss that echoes the well wishing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Tinsel and Lights is as emotionally complex as any recording in Thorn's or EBTG's catalog. While it is a meditation on Christmas, it makes no attempt to manipulate the listener's feelings. Instead, with its sheer musical quality, and the depth of tenderness and empathy in Thorn's voice, it highlights the season's complexities in the face of everyday life.

Product Details

Release Date: 10/30/2012
Label: Merge Records
UPC: 0673855045924
catalogNumber: 459
Rank: 56187

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Tracey Thorn   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Piano,Electric Guitar,Tambourine,Vocals,Choir, Chorus
Tony Lewis   Celli
John Barclay   Cornet
Mark Berrow   Violin
Liz Edwards   Violin
Richard Edwards   Tenor Trombone
Nick Ingman   Conductor
Rita Manning   Violin
Steve Pearce   Bass Guitar
Ben Watt   Acoustic Guitar,Piano,Electric Guitar,Choir, Chorus,fender rhodes
Richard Bissill   Tenor Horn
Mary Scully   Bass
Peter Lale   Viola
Patrick Kiernan   Violin
Boguslaw Kostecki   Violin
Frank Schaefer   Celli
Bruce White   Viola
David Daniels [cello]   Celli
Rachel Bolt   Viola
Deborah Widdup   Violin
Emlyn Singleton   Violin
Andy Wood   Tenor Trombone
Nick Barr   Viola
Ewan Pearson   Hand Clapping,solina,sleigh bells,Moog Bass
David Stewart   Euphonium
Owen Slade   Tuba
Perry Montague-Mason   Violin
Kate Moore   Flugelhorn
Tom Pigott-Smith   Violin
Christopher Tombling   Violin
John Thurgood   Tenor Horn
Jonathan Williams   Celli
Peter Hanson   Violin
Jono Ma   Electric Guitar
Leo Taylor   Drums
Alfie   Choir, Chorus
Paul Beinston   Cornet
Gabriel Winterfield   Electric Guitar
Caroline Drucker   Hand Clapping
Steve Morris   Violin

Technical Credits

Joni Mitchell   Composer
Randy Newman   Composer
Carol Hall   Composer
Tracey Thorn   Composer
Green Gartside   Composer
Nick Ingman   Brass Arrangment,Orchestral Arrangements
Hugh Martin   Composer
Ron Sexsmith   Composer
Stephin Merritt   Composer
Ralph Blane   Composer
Alan Sparhawk   Composer
Mimi Parker   Composer
Bruno Ellingham   Engineer
Sufjan Stevens   Composer
Ewan Pearson   Programming,Producer,Engineer
Jack White   Composer
Mat Bartram   Bass Engineer
Charlotte Matthews   Assistant Contractor
John Gilsenan   Artwork

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