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TOM CHAPLIN

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Twelve Tales of Christmas

UNIVERSAL

‘2000 Miles’

8/10

FESTIVE ALBUM FROM KEANE FRONTMAN

For some Christmas music is less a soundtrack to seasonal merriment, and more a bitter reminder of our days in the retail trenches. Ten-hour shifts, five days a week, for a whole month affords you a lot of time to deconstruc­t the awfulness of the Crimbo canon. Joyeux Noel be damned, and I don’t care if David Bowie did a Christmas song – bah humbug! And now, as if it couldn’t get much worse, the frontman of one of my least favourite bands of the early millennium, Keane, has released a solo Christmas album. That’s it, call it off, I’ve had enough!

But wait! Just like George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life, I have seen, or at least heard, the light. Tom Chaplin’s ‘Twelve Tales Of Christmas’ is a beautiful, stirring piece of work. Despite being blessed with a distinctiv­e voice, Chaplin’s erstwhile endeavours have very often left me cold; but here, there is a plaintive, soulful quality to his writing. Twelve

Tales Of Christmas sees Chaplin playing to the more sorrowful aspects of the season – loneliness, isolation, struggle: this is a darkly introspect­ive piece of work. Indeed, it’s best listened to as you sit by the fireplace, sipping a brandy, basking in the shimmering neon glow of some pound shop Christmas lights.

While cover versions abound – including a spacey version of

East 17’s ‘Stay Another Day’, an enthrallin­g take on Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’, and an absolutely gorgeous rendition of The Pretenders’

‘2000 Miles’ – original Chaplin compositio­ns such as ‘For The Lost’ and the sublime ‘Follow My Heart’ offer moving contemplat­ions of vulnerabil­ity. For good measure, the album’s splendid production by David Kosten is lush and haunting.

There are times when the sense of melancholy is almost overwhelmi­ng, but this is an earnest, tender, and romantic effort, which explores the forlorn feelings beneath the festivitie­s. Joyeux Noel, after all! OUT NOW // WAYNE BYRNE

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