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It might not yet be Halloween, and there are still a few days left to carve up that jack-o-lantern for the front porch, but The Polyphonic Spree is ready to ring in the Christmas spirit with or without you, with their first full length holiday album, “Holidaydream: Songs of the Holidays, Vol. 1”.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to say this preceding review may be partially biased, as I spent a good many months leading up to the album’s release, working on the album art, layout, pressing of vinyl, etc., so needless to say, I’m quite thrilled to see (and hear) the album’s existence.
Personal and artistic self-satisfaction aside, I have to admit “Holidaydream” is one of the more interesting and pleasurable holiday records I’ve heard in quite some time, since Christmas records are highly prized and cherished in my household. Back in the golden era of the record business, it was considered a smart commercial move to record a holiday album for the fans, and to show what a swell family man or woman you were. Those days have changed, sadly, but there are a few bands and performers who hang amongst those cats who knew how to make a good Christmas record, and the bunch that make up The Polyphonic Spree are indeed, those cats.
Spree singer and band frontman Tim DeLaughter and crew capture a unique feeling on this record that is often missing in contemporary holiday records; a serious blend of joy, wonderment, melancholy and the rest of the emotional spectrum the holiday season often conjures up. But the band doesn’t go over the top with flashy, obnoxious vocal treatments, over-zealous dance beats or with long-winded instrumental solos. Like Goldilocks, everything is really just right and spot on with this record, from the honest and most triumphant cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy X-Mas (War Is Over)” to the playful and jolly “Working Elf’s Theme.”
What really impresses me about “Holidaydream” is the very George Martin-esque orchestrations throughout. Whether intentional or not, there are Beatles ‘Yellow Submarine’ sounds here, there and everywhere, and the subtle hints of Arabia that segue from “Do You Hear What I Hear?” into “Carol of the Drum (Little Drummer Boy)” take the Beatles’ god natured spirit even further. Even the backing choir, which is an important instrument in of itself on this record, delivers these cherished hymns in ways only church choirs wish they could thrive.
The album plays more in the happy end of the mood spectrum, more than anything, and “Holidaydream” is a perfect record for the young ‘uns and young families starting new family traditions during the holidays. DeLaughter and son even share the joyous spotlight on “White Christmas”, a duet that is as keen and memorable as anything that Courier and Ives created for the holiday season.
Vinyl fans will want to get their hands on this record for sure, as it varies greatly from the CD version. First off, the gate-fold vinyl edition is limited to only 2,000 copies, each one hand mixed and pressed by the Spree’s very own ‘record elves’, meaning each record is different from the next one. Also, fans will be treated to a vinyl-only track of DeLaughter reading “T’was the Night Before Christmas.” Additionally, the track listing is different from the CD, which is worth experiencing on its own.
If that weren’t all, the Spree have chosen different directors to direct short films for each of the album’s songs, beginning with these:
Additionally, The Polyphonic Spree are gearing up for 2013 with a new Kickstarter campaign, hoping to fund their live album/DVD of their 2012 ‘You+Me’ Tour, as well as an upcoming tour, and are pretty close to making their campaign a success. Sounds like kicking a few dollars to the band would be a great gift from fans, eh???
“Holidaydream: Songs of the Holidays, Vol. 1” is available at finer indie record stores now, as well as Amazon and iTunes.
“Holidaydream” LP track listing:
1. Let It Snow
2. Winter Wonderland
3. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)
4. Happy X-Mas (War Is Over)
5. Silent Night
6. Silver Bells (Feat. The School of Seven Bells)
1. Do You Hear What I Hear?
2. Carol of the Drum (Little Drummer Boy)
3. A Working Elf’s Theme
4. White Christmas
5. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
6. Silver Bells (Reprise)