Thea Gilmore loves Christmas. She doesn’t care about the commercial edge, her icy heart melts like mulled wine the moment Christmas is mentioned. However, she isn’t a fan of the stereotypically insincere and cheesy Christmas song. She is aware that many artists cash in with their schmaltzy seasonal releases. Yet, the past few years have seen some heartfelt tributes to the festival, most notably from Low and the McGarrigle Sisters. Upon hearing their releases, Gilmore realised that the Christmas album genre was changing and perhaps she should do her best to nudge it all along. Thus, she releases Strange Communion, a ten track tribute featuring eight new compositions and two covers of her seasonal favourites.
Filled with Gilmore’s rich breathy vocals and is instantly irrepressible.
Strange Communion is filled with Gilmore’s rich breathy vocals and is instantly irrepressible. Gilmore has managed to pour into ten songs a season of wonder. Sometimes cynical, others magically in awe, Strange Communion never disappoints. “Listen The Snow Is Falling” is an uplifting, inspired Yoko Ono cover. Staying true to the original, needing only to add her elegant exuding to lift the track to a level of inane beauty. Similarly, Gilmore easily owns Elvis Costello’s “The St Stephens Day Murders”.
Of her own compositions, Gilmore reveals a torn perception of Christmas. “Drunken Angel” easily summarises everything else contained within Strange Communion’s ten tracks. An adult looking through a child’s eyes but unable to repress their own scepticism, “Drunken Angel” reworks the Christmas song into a relevant, contemporary classic. “Cold Coming” is an angst ridden take on Christmas as inspired by T S Eliot’s poem “Journey Of The Magi”. Observing Christmas to be both religious and secular, “Cold Coming” is a valid social comment. “That’ll Be Christmas” with its memories of Sound Of Music and missing loved ones verges on the cheesy but is quickly forgiven for it’s catchy refrain.
Strange Communion manages to both celebrate and criticise Christmas as celebrated today. Gilmore was determined not to release a typical Christmas album. She has succeeded. Strange Communion captures to essence of Christmas, but lacks the schmaltz that often ruins even the most genuine attempts.