Tracey Thorn's resume makes for an impressive read: starting with the early post punk of Stern Bops, moving onto the Marine Girls, then most notably Everything But The Girl's Eighties acoustic outings that developed into a Nineties drum & bass/trip hop-led sound, followed by more house tinged folktronica stylings during the Noughties. And there's the small matter of her evocatively memorable performances on one of the most critically acclaimed British albums of all time - Massive Attack's Protection.
Let's just say that in her low key way she is one of the pinnacles of the British singer songwriting community, her trademark sultry docu-real vocals, crafted way before reality TV even existed and realism became a fashion statement. Thorn's vocals have always been stationed at ground level, set with observations of the ordinary in her lyrics - her vocals are straightforward sounding with an emotional tinge without even getting close to hysterical. And on this festive album Tracey does nothing to spoil her record. Instead she continues in her own, anti-immediate trend way and does a Christmas album that indulges in a lot of covers ranging from Dolly Parton's 'Hard Candy Christmas' to The White Stripes's 'In the Cold, Cold Night', Joni Mitchell's 'River' and Sufjan Stevens' 'Sister Winter'. And then there are the collaborations with Green Gartside of Scritti Politti appearing on 'Snow in the Sun' and a cover of Low's 'Taking Down the Tree'. But interwoven amongst these unoriginals are two brand new tracks: Christmas scene setter 'Joy' and baby orientated 'Tinsel and Light'.
It's collection of down tempo chilly tracks, sometimes EBTG-esque, sometimes folky and other times drawing upon previous floaty electronic escapades all spearheaded by musical production genius Ewan Pearson but also with the equally talented and soothsayerlike Buzzin' Fly Ben Watt in tow, showing off his guitar and piano skills. So yes this album meets a solid British homegrown standard. But is it exciting and/or covering new ground? Not particularly, but then why would you bother pushing boundaries this far into your career? This is the sound of a well established, accomplished singer and production crew that have earned their right to do what they want to a high standard.
There is also no escaping the fact that this is definitely a collection of Christmasy songs, likely to have limited appeal beyond December/January (which makes it funny that it was recorded during the sprin). Will it be the defining soundtrack to wasted youth? No, but will it comfort, console and cuddle the ears of listeners with the iciest of hearts in the cold of winter? Yes indeed.