Music Monday: A Tori Amos Christmas?

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Tori Amos
Midwinter Graces
Universal Republic

A Tori Amos Christmas album? Seriously?

That was my first thought when I opened Midwinter Graces, a new album out this week from the indie queen. The quirky, moody crooner seems like a strange fit for the wholesome, fuzzy holiday season. Plus, Christmas albums are usually crap (a fact MoJo staffers recently lamented at length).

But I should have known better than to to doubt the seditious songstress. Rather than recording syrupy holiday tunes, Amos has crafted a collection of covers and originals filled with whimsy and melancholy—the musical equivalent of spiked eggnog.

Some of her twists are subtle, like a rhythmic reimagining of the “Noel, Noel” refrain in “What Child, Nowell”—her mashup of “What Child Is This?” and “The First Noel”—or the backdrop of a drumbeat on “Emmanuel.” Others are more pointed, like a lyrical personification of the ivy in “Holly, Ivy, and Rose,” or gothic instrumentals in “Star of Wonder.” Either way, there’s a distinct sense that Amos wants to subvert the conventions of Christmas music, even as she pays them homage.

Amos also retains her lyrical trademark of precious poeticism: Black satin is what I wore / That, and our hearts left on the floor, she laments in “Pink and Glitter”; on “Winter’s Carol,” she muses The summer queen has been in darkness.

The only misstep is “Snow Angel,” a leaden, cheesy ballad that reminds the listener what could’ve been had Amos chosen cliché over imagination. It’s a good thing that didn’t happen.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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