We think of the holidays as a joyous time, but what happens when life's darker moments intervene? Sufjan Stevens explores that paradox on his lilting 2006 Christmas song "Sister Winter," and its message resonated with Everything But the Girl singer (now turned solo artist) Tracey Thorn, who recorded a cover version. Hear it below.
Thorn tells SPIN she began her take of the song -- culled from Stevens' epic, 42-song holiday collection Songs for Christmas -- this summer in Berlin, but her studio session was scrapped when her mother became quite ill, forcing her to fly home to England. Tragically, Thorn lost her mom a few weeks later, but found solace in finishing "Sister Winter," whose narrator, in Thorn's words, "has been feeling down, but is now returning, specifically in order to wish everyone a happy Christmas."
"Now of course the song fits my mood exactly, which is that I have had a tough second half of this year, but here comes Christmas, and I really do want to send good wishes to everyone, especially everyone who has been so kind and supportive to me in the last few months," she explains.
Thorn, whose 2010 album Love and Its Opposite just made one of our year-end lists, says she likes the atmosphere of the song, "which falls somewhere between a kind of introspective melancholy, and a determined Christmas cheerfulness, which is battling to keep the melancholy at bay."
The singer's beautifully understated voice, particularly in an overdubbed harmony during the chorus, is positively angelic, and slightly synthetic instrumentation delivers a inviting, albeit chilly, electronic pulse.
Check out "Sister Winter" for yourself below, and tell us what you think in the comments. You can also download some holiday offerings from Tracey in her special "Christmas Stocking" -- click here for info.
LISTEN: Tracey Thorn, "Sister Winter"