One More Drifter in the Snow V2/Superego ★★★★
While it’s true that Sufjan Stevens has beaten most people to the Christmas punch with his Songs for Christmas box set, there’s still a contender for the “Best Christmas Album – Ever” slot in Aimee Mann’s quite singular take on the hoary old chestnut of what constitutes a truly great seasonal song. Mann is hardly known for providing cheer at Christmas or any other time. Her angle on life is usually skewed, sour and delivered with take-it-or-leave-it resignation and terrific melodies. Here, however, Mann is not so much grappling with the horns of a dilemma but of a red-nosed reindeer. Stylistically, she knocks into a cocked hat most of the seasonal musical dross that has been reviewed in these pages over the past couple of weeks: your Bette Midlers, your Billy Idols and your Wynona Judds with their unfeasibly common and utterly cliched approach to the “Christmas” song.
With only two originals (Christmastime, by Mann’s husband Michael Penn and longtime collaborator Jon Brion, and Calling on Mary, by Mann and bassist/producer Paul Bryan), it’s up to the by-now over-familiar material to be either radically redrafted or consigned to the rubbish tip. With one horrific error (Dr Seuss’s You’re aMean One Mr Grinch) and one sublime “modern” cover (Jimmy Webb’s Whatever Happened to Christmas), Mann restyles the likes of The Christmas Song (aka Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire), Winter Wonderland, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and White Christmas in the manner of a ’40s nightclub singer en route from The Blue Note to the red light district: soulful, slinky and not a little bit risque.
Skip the Grinch dud and have yourself a merry little Christmas; the drinks are on me and Ms Mann. www.aimeemann.com