Music reviews: Holiday albums rock

Eclectic mix of artists serves up seasonal music feast
Modified: December 13, 2012 at 5:33 pm •  Published: December 14, 2012
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Various Artists ‘Holidays Rule'

(MPL Communications)

Here's a seasonal sampler of ear candy for you: Paul McCartney crooning an old-fashioned arrangement of Mel Torme's classic “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” alongside indie-popsters The Shins' Beach Boys-style cover of McCartney's original “Wonderful Christmastime.”

Yes, McCartney's name crops up a couple of times since the various-artists collection “Holidays Rule” is, after all, on Sir Paul's MPL Communications label, but there's more variety to be found in here than in Forrest Gump's box of chocolates. There's alt-rockers fun. giving an upbeat treatment to “Sleigh Ride” with its ELO-influenced orchestral sound; singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright and Sharon Van Etten doing a lounge-y jazz duet rendition of “Baby, It's Cold Outside”; Calexico bringing a haunting Southwestern flavor to the acoustic guitar and brass of “Green Grows the Holly”; the Heartless Bastards bringing rural barroom sadness of “Blue Christmas”; Fruit Bats getting playfully folk-poppy on “It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” and on and on with selections both familiar and obscure by the likes of Punch Brothers, The Head and the Heart, Irma Thomas and the Preservation Jazz Hall Band, the Civil Wars and Holly Golightly.

Like the liner notes say, it's a nice list, worth checking at least twice.

— Gene Triplett

The Polyphonic Spree ‘Holidaydream: Sounds of the Holidays Vol. One' (Kirtland Records)

Ex-Tripping Daisy leader Tom DeLaughter's heavenly, robe-draped choir, the Dallas-based Polyphonic Spree, has finally made its first holiday album, “Holidaydream: Sounds of the Holidays Vol. One,” and it's a beauty, especially if you're enamored of the kind of orchestral dream-pop the Flaming Lips have been known to create on such modern classics as “The Soft Bulletin” and “Yoshima Battles the Pink Robots.”

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