Famously idiosyncratic songwriter continues mid-career slump with album of holiday songs
Given that holiday-themed releases are just a step above albums of pop standards on the continuum slumping toward creative irrelevancy, Midwinter Graces presents a career crossroads for Tori Amos. Having long wandered between pagan and Christian themes, here Amos attempts to combine the familiar spirit of well-known Christmas carols with Winter Solstice mysticism but eventually sinks into the same sentimentality and overproduction that often mars her more conventional projects. Struggling to stick to the script, her rendition of “Star of Wonder” starts off shrouded in a haze of pattering hand drums and darkly snaking strings but eventually gets lost in an overstated chorus. Similarly, the Amos-penned “A Silent Night with You” is one long seasonal cliché, just as the big-band gloss of “Pink and Glitter” becomes too cute for its own good. Aside from an imaginative melodic makeover for “What Child, Nowell,” Amos fails to find an entryway into these songs that justifies her willingness to bury her personality inside them, ending up with a well-meaning but ultimately inessential vanity project.