BWW Album Review: Todd Almond's A PONY FOR CHRISTMAS Will Elevate Your Winter Wonderland

The wonderful album is more seasonal affective disorder and less blinding holiday mirth.

By: Dec. 03, 2021
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BWW Album Review: Todd Almond's A PONY FOR CHRISTMAS Will Elevate Your Winter Wonderland

Just in time for the Christmas season, Ghostlight Records released Todd Almond's debut holiday album A PONY FOR CHRISTMAS. The record is an unconventional, folk-pop holiday album that blends Almond's original compositions with renditions of traditional carols and a few pop surprises. Often more wistful and melancholic than ebullient, A PONY FOR CHRISTMAS reminds listeners that joyfulness in the holiday season isn't always sugar dusted or bright lights.

According to press materials, A PONY FOR CHRISTMAS is inspired by Almond's mother. She had requested that he make a holiday album for some 20 odd years. "Her 70th birthday landed in the middle of the pandemic and I struggled with what to get her that showed just how much I love her," says Almond. "Then one day it hit me. A Christmas album, of course. And there was the inspiration I needed."

The record opens with the uplifting "Maybe This Christmas," setting the tone for a joyous album that celebrates and extols the warmth and mirth of the holiday season. The following track is a quirky and contemplative yet fun song called "Ponies," originally written for Almond's musical IOWA. Next is a lush rendition of the traditional "O Holy Night" made resplendent with undulating piano, emotive strings, and Almond's lugubrious vocal line.

The tone of the album shifts to infectious exuberance with "Welcome Home," originally written for Almond's musical THE ODYSSEY. This track was that musical's closing number, and here the sentiment of being wanted at home resonates with utter love and acceptance. The next song, "A Pony for Christmas" is a pensive ode from Almond, where a dreamily nostalgic Almond reflects on his Christmas wants. Up next is an unexpected but deliciously haunting mash-up of Kate Bush songs in "Hounds of Love / Cloudbusting / Running Up That Hill." This driving medley is understated joy tinged with dispirited sentimentality.

Almond's meditative cover of "The Little Drummer Boy," inspired by his mom, features a heartwarming additional verse where the song's titular character proudly tells his mother about playing for the king. The following track is a sincere cover of "Kind and Generous" that sparkles with all the hallmarks of Natalie Merchant's original recording. Then the elegiac and gorgeous "Moon Over Nebraska" is another Almond original rife with longing. "I grew up in Nebraska, and the first lines sound like a dis to Nebraska, but it's just more of that endless longing that I think is a hallmark of my writing," says Almond. "I long. Even when I have."

The album continues with an effervescent mash-up of traditional carols in "The First Noel / Angels We Have Heard on High," featuring bubbly flourishes from woodwinds, cheerful brass proclamations, and jubilant strings. This is followed by a cover of Joni Mitchell's sublime "River," in which Almond masterfully highlights the forlorn, despondent feeling of the beloved song. The album's only instrumental piece, "Christmas Eve," is next. The stunningly beautiful composition by Almond evokes those late night hours on Christmas Eve where we snuggle in with ones we love as the fire in the hearth fades to embers before the sun rises on the magic of Christmas morning. Then, he rounds out the album with a heartrending version of "I'll Be Home For Christmas" that is submerged in all the sadness of a Christmas spent separated from the ones we love the most.

Almond's A PONY FOR CHRISTMAS may be more seasonal affective disorder and less blinding holiday mirth, but it is a glorious experience that will elevate any winter wonderland you find yourself in. A PONY FOR CHRISTMAS is available in digital and streaming formats here. Additionally, in an exclusive concert celebrating the album, Almond will perform at Chelsea Table + Stage on Monday, December 13 at 7:00 PM. Get your tickets here.


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