There are but a handful of Christmas comps worthy of being stuffed into a stocking; most deserve having a sock stuck in 'em, as they're usually little more than label money-makers and time-killers stuck on a shelf in late October and thrown in the remainder bin come December 26. Especially awful are alternarock comps full of "ironic" versions of holiday standards and other irregulars; somewhere in hell, Satan's donning the Santa cap while treating his sweaty denizens to Sonic Youth's fuzzy-scuzzy version of Martin Mull's "Santa Doesn't Cop Out on Dope." Yeah, nothing says "Happy Birthday, Jesus" like Thurston Moore farting into a microphone.
But this is one Hanukkah Harry with a fetish for the good stuff: Vince Guaraldi, Motown, Phil Spector, Frank Sinatra, XTC's "Thanks for Christmas," Nat Cole, Aimee Mann's "Christmastime" and now this 13-song collection that contains its fair share of chestnuts, only a handful of which deserve a right roasting over an open fire (lookin' at you, Sarah McLachlan). Hard to knock a collection on which Coldplay's Chris Martin warbles through a heartbreakingly sincere "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," Ron Sexsmith does his best Paul Young while insisting, yeah, "Maybe This Christmas," Neil Finn shares his "Sweet Secret" and Jack Johnson frolics alongside "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." For some reason, Bright Eyes' "Blue Christmas" has incurred the wrath of many an uptight pop muso, but it's actually quite lovely--in a sort of unlistenable way, but still, better a barely sung bedroom recording than a barely awake studio outtake. Phantom Planet, doing "Winter Wonderland," really should break up, or at least apologize to Rivers Cuomo.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.