As Thanksgiving turkeys fill the dining table and twinkling lights hang from every lamppost, Tom Chaplin’s Twelve Tales of Christmas kicks off the season with a dozen cool and contemplative tracks. The album couldn’t have arrived at a better time: On the heels of his critically-acclaimed 2016 debut solo LP, The Wave, the Keane singer now gets festive with a handful of standout remakes (including Howard Blake’s “Walking in the Air” and Joni Mitchell’s “River”), plus eight heartfelt originals (among them, the pop single “Under A Million Lights” and the gorgeous “Midnight Mass”) – most featuring piano, soaring strings and the swell of choral voices.
Chaplin’s vocals are as pristine as ever, but the British star says he prefers listeners set aside his “choirboy” image and allow him to “bring an element of realism” to Christmas by singing and performing songs that speak to the loneliness of the holidays as well as to the hope and joy.
”When researching songs for Twelve Tales, I discovered there’s a lot of heartbreak at Christmas,” Chaplin says. “A part of me still buys into the overly-romanticized version of the holidays, but for many of us, there’s a bittersweetness about Christmas. It’s a rare time of year when we’re forced to stop and reflect in the midst of our busy lives. There can be sadness and loss – and sometimes an empty space at the Christmas table – but we’re here now, so we should raise a glass and seize the day.”
The Pretenders’ 1983 hit, “2000 Miles” is a good fit for Twelve Tales; the beloved composition about distance, traveling and missing a loved one was penned by the band’s singer and songwriter, Chrissie Hynde. The song is said to have been written for her late bandmate James Honeyman-Scott (who died in 1982) and has since been performed by Coldplay, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Kylie Minogue, and others. Chaplin’s studio version is both reverential and uplifting, and features the London Contemporary Voices.
“I wanted to do a record that put a more human, authentic spin on the holidays,” Chaplin says. “These are all love songs, framed by Christmas.”