Christmas Records Day 7: Tori Amos' Midwinter Graces
Tori Amos - Midwinter Graces (Island, released 2009)
Not really regarded as an artist who embodies any sense of festive cheer, Tori Amos nevertheless decided to make her eleventh studio LP a Christmassy affair, and the end product is a diverting, if inconsistent, listen. Devoid of the over-produced arrangements that plagued her Abnormally Attracted to Sin album of earlier in 2009 - a record that rewarded patience but didn't make things easy going for the non-hardcore listener - Midwinter Graces has an appealing skip in its step on numbers like Pink and Glitter, Harps of Gold and Star of Wonder. When it slows, it can do so with an understated elegance that Amos has only sporadically summoned during the 00s. There's an effortless beauty to A Silent Night With You, its strings stirring without ever overpowering the singer's position in the mix, and Winter's Carol is the record's emotional heart. But missteps do sour the experience rather, very much the sprouts left on the plate, rendering Midwinter Graces an example of a single-artist Christmas album that's very much nearly but not quite in the grand pantheon of ilk releases. Fans will love Amos's unexpected foray into such themes, but its lack of depth and longevity (not helped by its subject matter, of course) consign it to the curio pile, rather than that stacked with seasonal classics.