Midwinter Graces, the first seasonal offering from Tori Amos, unfolds exactly how one would imagine from one of music’s most daring female singer/songwriter: Dark. Piano-driven. Spectacularly unique. After two decades of perfecting her signature sound, Amos casts her magic across Christmas standards including “Emmanuel,” “Star of Wonder” and “Silent Night.”
The traditional elements of Midwinter Graces, such as the orchestral arrangements and the Biblical bent of the lyrics, are surely imprints left on Amos growing up in her father’s Methodist church. But leave it to Amos to spin a 14th century carol, “Lo How A Rose E’re Blooming” into something completely progressive. “Holly Rose & Ivy” opens with the lilting “Rose” melody. Then, Amos weaves her own chord progression and words in between “Rose”’s classic lines. It’s a beautiful mash up. Amos employs the formula across Midwinter Graces to make the songs she covers truly her own. Call it an interesting way to “co-write.”
“Winter’s Carol” is one of the disc’s most adventurous. The production is layered and the echoing background vocals give it a haunting feel. The swanky “Pink And Glitter,” is the sonic anomaly here, with its old world horns and uptown attitude. This sounds like Christmas on the Upper East Side. Overall though, the carols in Amos’ adept hands, sound gothic, inspired and winter-y more than merely merry like most holiday offerings.