Though it’s liberally frosted with cozy wine- bar piano and features obligatory renditions of seasonal staples such as “The Christmas Song” and “Winter Wonderland,” Aimee Mann’s One More Drifter in the Snow is as much an interrogation of the cash-grab holiday album as it is an example of the form. Singer-songwriters don’t come much icier than Mann, Hollywood’s appointed chronicler of thinking-class disillusionment, so it’s hard to buy the warm-and-fuzzy sentiments here at face value when we’re so used to expecting wan detachment—she hardly seems like one of these year-round grumps who melt at the sight of a kid in a reindeer costume. Instead, she illuminates the skepticism nestled beneath her tree, as on “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” wherein she couldn’t sound less excited about getting there.
There’s no such distrust on Sarah McLachlan’s Wintersong, which tends toward pious upper- crust fare like “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “In a Bleak Mid-Winter.” But McLachlan and producer Pierre Marchand do create a luminous fantasy-folk vibe that similarly resists stocking-stuffer schmaltz. In their take on “I’ll Be Home,” the singer sounds resigned to the fact that her reunion might take place “only in my dreams.” Bummed, but resigned.
Aimee Mann plays Town Hall December 12 and 14, the-townhall-nyc.org.