Between releasing a steady stream of music videos and snagging this year’s Latin Grammy for Best Alternative Song, we’re not sure how Mexican indie stalwart Carla Morrison found the time to record a holiday album — but ‘tis the season, after all. Her six-song EP La Niña del Tambor dropped like a sack of presents down a chimney chute today, just in time to spread winter cheer to all of her fans.
Except, this album isn’t a collection of upbeat Christmas carols you can blast while wrapping gifts. There’s something about the holidays that can be wistful and nostalgic, and Morrison uses her soaring vocals to communicate the emotional, slightly melancholy side of the season in both English and Spanish. She channels Judy Garland’s forlorn spirit during a jazzier version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and busts out heartfelt, gospel-inspired notes on her cover of “Oh Holy Night.” Her interpretation of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” is a stunner that proves how timeless her voice really is.
When it comes to the Spanish classics on the EP, her take on “Noche de Paz” is tender and sensitive, while also showcasing her incredible range, and the album’s one original song, “Jesús,”is a surprisingly intimate spiritual meditation. And, because she’s an alternative girl deep down, she does yank out the guitars to share “El Niño del Tambor” like we’ve never quite heard it before.
In a lot of ways, a poignant holiday album is the perfect successor to 2015’s Amor Supremo, building on Morrison’s aptitude for delicate subtleties. “La Niña del Tambor” could have easily turned into one big snooze under the mistletoe, but Morrison’s signature grace and exquisite vocalizations make it a rare piece of winter magic.
Carla Morrison’s La Niña del Tambor EP is out now via Cósmica Records.