Sting's Latest Is a Melancholy Treatise on Winter
- Christa Banister TheFish.com Contributing Writer
- 2009 11 Nov
Title: If on a Winter's Night …
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Anyone expecting a cheerier, poppier Christmas album will be disappointed, but those who appreciate Sting's more artsy side will find plenty to like about If on a Winter's Night …
It's been said that a "picture is worth a thousand words," and that statement couldn't be more fitting for Sting's new album, If on a Winter's Night.
In fact, the photograph selected for the front cover perfectly encapsulates the feeling of the project as Sting walks alone in the snow-covered woods, his only companion, a lone furry friend whose whiskers are probably covered in ice.
Adding to that deep, pervasive chill, a sense of isolation and ultimately, the beauty of simplicity, is a backdrop of barren trees and cloudy sky, the physical signs that winter has officially arrived—and is here to stay.
And that's exactly what the songs on If on a Winter's Night sound like, the musings of someone who hasn't seen the sun shine in a good, long while. Drawing from a wide range of influences, including the simple folk songs that were part of his early years in England, Sting serves up a collection of moody, introspective tracks that sound perfect with a cup of cocoa and a crackling fire—or even by candlelight.
While the rumors around the blogosphere earlier in the year indicated that Sting was making an actual Christmas album, If on a Winter's Night isn't really much about "the most wonderful time of the year" at all. In several interviews, Sting admitted he wasn't much of a fan of the likes of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" or "Frosty the Snowman," so he opted for a more non-traditional approach to singing about the winter months, with Christmas factoring in only a little.
Instead, cuts like "Lullaby for an Anxious Child," "The Hounds of Winter" and the folksy standout "Soul Cake" are really about personal reflection, something Sting said fits well with the winter months. The inclusion of a couple of hymns also provides a welcome nod to Christianity, something that Sting has taken a few potshots at in the past.
But even with the significant talent involved with the project, Sting's still-fantastic vocals and the high quality of the majority of the material here, If on a Winter's Night definitely won't wow everyone—especially if you're not a fan of Sting to begin with.
The slow pace and melancholy mood can't help but start wearing on you after a while, much like the long winter months themselves. But for a quiet evening at home, it's a nice option if you've grown tired of yet another rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"—so there's definitely something to say for that.
**This review first published on November 3, 2009.