Tori Amos has released a Christmas EP – it’s a clever bit of holiday-related merch for her fans but this is Christmas-adjacent as much as it is anything resembling true holiday fare. These are original songs, there’s mention of Christmas directly in the title track and there’s clues in ever title (Circle of Seasons, Holly, Better Angels) but the lyrical nods to Xmas as such are pretty deeply hidden, meaning you can listen to this one regardless of the season.
But it’s Christmas music. Sure. And this is on brand for Amos. She’s done the full album of holiday/Xmas music (originals and covers) already. And you may remember that back near the very start of her carer as a solo artist a cover-version of Little Drummer Boy was one of her sought-after rarities.
This new EP of material – Christmas or otherwise – arrives at the right time for me. I’m newly re-born a fan, or at the least newly enthused after a few years off. This year got me back on the Amos train. First with her memoir and then on the heels of that I celebrated her early music with a radio feature and I was also gifted vinyl copies of Under The Pink and also Boys For Pele.
I wasn’t quite jonesing for new material. But then again I pretty much was.
So Christmastide is the thing for me for now. And it’s lush and beautiful, the arrangements of these songs pack in a lot, the production still allows them to soar, Tori is in fine voice (of course) and the mood here is of dramatic, wintery ballads that suit the Northern Hemisphere’s Christmas in a largely locked down world. This is the Christmas music of and for 2020. Dark, introspective, moody, but glorious.
Circle of Season and Holly remind me of songs from Amos albums post-Pele, in fact post her last Christmas album (2009). And closer Better Angels blasts out in a squelch of electric guitar, so though it doesn’t sound quite like it I’m almost drawn back to Y Kant Tori Read – that band’s album from 1988 being part of my rediscovery of Amos.
Actually it sounds like it could fit on the early solo records, particularly if the record company had had their way; they wanted guitars, didn’t trust her that the piano was the thing. Pianos weren’t cool in 1992. Or 1994. Amos won that one.
I’m not any real fan of Christmas music. Which is why this one appeals. It sneaks in. It’s barely a Christmas album at all. But then again it is, it can be. I think that’s a nice wee trick. And I’m also noticing the new move seems to be not to outwear the welcome – so many Christmas EPs rather than full albums. We all know that even as a novelty they outgrew their usefulness a few tracks in.
This is one I can see myself playing – middle or the year, next Christmas too. Can’t say that about many new albums of Christmas-related tunes.
But roll on the next album proper. I’m ready. Sounds like Tori Amos is too.
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