The Polyphonic Spree
Holidaydream: Sounds of the Holidays Vol. One
Nov 13, 2012 Issue #43 - Animal Collective
When it seems like every pop star with more than a one-album deal releases a holiday album, why don’t more folks from the fringes do it? A vocal-oriented group like The Polyphonic Spree is a natural to follow earlier examples such as Sufjan Stevens’ 2006 box set, even if it doesn’t crowd Madonna’s “Santa Baby” from the airwaves.
Spree leader Tim DeLaughter is the primary singer, with group contributions here and there, and all are in fine voice. Along with a group of holiday standards, there’s a cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” and some instrumentals. Considering the latter, after a couple of spins it’s hard not to join in the whistling on the perky “A Working Elf’s Theme.”
A holiday record containing only straight renditions can be memorable should they all be knockout recordings, so it’s usually a relief when artists shake the creative snow globe a bit. DeLaughter and company ensure that Holidaydream is not your grandparents’ Yuletide record, taking a few melodic liberties here and deconstructing there, though the spirit of the songs generally remains intact.
“Silent Night” is played as an instrumental with key changes that turn it a bit darker, as though “Sleep in heavenly peace” might be ripe with tragic portent. “Winter Wonderland” is slowed to a dreamlike pace, while a marching beat brings an unusual new tension to “Silver Bells” (featuring School of Seven Bells). And if “Let It Snow” is nearly unrecognizable, it’s still lovely. (www.thepolyphonicspree.com)
Author rating: 6.5/10
Average reader rating: 6/10