Holy shit, Tori remembered that she can play the harpsichord. Who ever would have thought that Amos’ best album in years would be her recently released holiday album, Midwinter Graces? (I decline to say Christmas for Tori’s sake, all those years of unraveling Christianity shouldn’t be wasted.)
This album is really downright gorgeous. At first listen, I have to say that I was skeptical, with the over-production and Auto Tune catastrophes of her last few albums, but really, it’s quite good. I mean, for the mass media. I personally kind of enjoyed Abnormally Attracted to Sin. This might be because I’m abnormally attracted to Tori Amos.
While not Christian per se…there’s nothing that could be misconstrued as offensive, either. When an already established artist releases a holiday album, it can go either way…will they keep the integrity of their music through the holidays or will they come off sounding alien and evangelistic? Tori certainly keeps her integrity. This album focuses more on the changing of the seasons and holiday spirit rather than religious or historical events.
While it does borrow from some traditional carols, Amos takes them in stride and often mixes them together for a better effect as seen in tracks like the opening, “What Child, Nowell”, a mash up of the Christmas classics “What Child Is This?” and “The First Noel”. It’s the comfort of the known, but at the same time, something completely different. At the same time, there’s tracks like “Pink and Glitter”, a swing-y, big band number with just a touch of holiday cheer.
“Winter’s Carol” is the true gem of this album. A Tori original, the opening piano reminds me of seeing her live and all the things that woman can do to a piano. Dear god, the things that woman can do to a piano. Tori sounds more like Tori than she has in years…incredibly powerful vocals, impeccable piano, and deliciously poetic lyrics are just…Tori. That’s just kinda what she does.
This album greatly reduces the amount of shameful guilt instilled by the majority of Christmas albums. It’s full of light and joy and family. Amos even brought in her own daughter, Natasha, and her niece Kelsey, but only for short moments. Instead of feeling like it’s just another parent parading their kid around in a Santa hat for the world to see, it’s really pretty cute.
The only real let down on this album is “Harps of Gold”, a clunky, over-produced track that I’m pretty sure was meant for the holiday season on adult lite-rock radio. Other than that, this is an utterly unexpected and delightful holiday album. This album has put her in the ranks of Over the Rhine and Lorena KcKennitt as far as magical holiday albums go. A!
Tori Amos’ Site