Holidays Rule, doesn’t rule

Adam Schasel, Staff Reporter

Okay, let me get something off my chest before I start this: I hate Christmas music. Seriously. Can’t stand the stuff. But when I heard the news that The Shins, one of my all-time favorite bands, was contributing to a Christmas album, I felt obligated as a fan to check it out, and maybe discover some other great bands worthy enough of being on the same album as The Shins. What I discovered didn’t really help my view of the holiday genre.
Holidays Rule is a compilation of classic Christmas songs from artists across the musical spectrum, including rock legend Paul McCartney, “so-catchy-I-want-to-drive-candy-canes-through-my-ears” pop darlings The Civil Wars, and many, many more. Essentially, this guarantees listeners will find something they like, but because of the broad diversity and general lack of flow there won’t be much more than a few songs that past the 25th  that are worth checking out.
The album’s opener is fun.’s cover of “Sleigh Ride.”  I am a huge fan of the band’s first album Aim and Ignite, but, unlike most others, I despise the auto-tuned, electronica turn that the band’s taken to mainstream success. Unfortunately, “Sleigh Ride” falls underneath this second category.  As proof that I’m not a musical Grinch, I love their Christmas song from 2009, “Believe in Me:” “Sleigh Ride” is just too cacophonous and random for my tastes.
My ears were compensated for their suffering with the next song, my original incentive to check out the album in the first place; The Shins’ cover of “Wonderful Christmastime.”  The song was simple, upbeat and light; it didn’t stress me out like “Sleigh Ride” did.  Maybe there was hope for this album?
Unfortunately, most of the rest of the album did not make a lasting impression. It did little to change my mind about Christmas music, which has so much noise but so little substance. When do we ever hear a new Christmas song? We listen to the same stuff that people have been hearing for the last sixty years. I like hearing new takes on old songs, but after eighteen years it all starts to sound the same. This album does little to reinvent the wheel in terms of holiday music, and does not stick out from the crowd enough to be a new classic.
That being said, there are a few gems that I found myself not hating from the get-go. I really enjoyed the cover of “The Man With the Bag” by Black Prairie and Sallie Ford, Y La Bamba’s Latin-inspired take on “Mister Santa” (which itself is just “Mister Sandman” with holiday-themed lyrics), and Andrew Bird’s album-closing cover of “Auld Lang Syne.”
If, like me, you’re not in the Christmas spirit, don’t expect this album to give you a new outlook on the holiday festivities. But if you’re already counting the days until Christmas 2013, listen to the thirty-second samples on iTunes for each song. You’re bound to find something you’ll like, but not enough to justify purchasing the entire album.
But hey, at least I found a Christmas song I don’t hate. That counts for something, right?

 

Recommended Tracks: “Wonderful Christmastime,” “The Man With the Bag,” “Green Grows the Holly,” “Señor Santa,” “Auld Lang Syne”