Did somebody slip something in my hot chocolate?
If you’ve ever thought your Christmas music collection needed a little jolt of Norman Rockwell on acid, you’re finally in luck! The Polyphonic Spree has just released their first Christmas record, Holidaydream, and it’s exactly what you’d expect from the left-of-center, multi-membered, symphonic choral rockers. Looking at the seemingly safe enough tracklist, you’ll see ten traditional holiday favorites mixed with a few original instrumentals and a cool cover of John Lennon’s "Happy Xmas (War is Over)." But don’t assume this is just another collection of yuletide tunes you’ve heard somewhere else before. The Polyphonic Spree aren’t your average 20+ member indie band and any Christmas record of theirs isn’t going to be average either. Holidaydream boasts some of the most trippy, dream-like sonic soundscapes and reworked melodies for these well-known, much-loved holiday songs and it’s guaranteed to create a unique listening experience for you throughout the season.
As diverse as The Polyphonic Spree is in nature and musical approach, it should be no surprise that the vibe of Holidaydream follows suite. It alternates between snappy instrumentation and somber spaces, while the magical, etherealness they create holds everything together. Holidaydream opens up with “A Working Elf’s Theme,” the first of two original instrumentals on the album. It’s whimsical and bouncy, and the sleigh bells and whistling come across surprisingly genuine and non-cheesy. The other instrumental, “Holidaydream,” closes the album and it’s more spacey and synthy in nature. Together, the two tracks work to make appropriate bookends for the jolly journey in between. Some of my favorite moments on the album are the atmospheric harp-pegios in “Silent Night” and the off-kilter melodic changes in “Winter Wonderland,” as well as the Middle-Eastern instrumental flourishes found in the 1-2 punch of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and “Carol of the Drum (Little Drummer Boy).” The most cinematic track of the album is their beautifully weird take on “Silver Bells,” where they are awesomely joined by School of Seven Bells. This one really breathes, unfolds and stretches out, like if Pink Floyd got all sentimental and festive. It really shines as a crowning jewel in an already interesting and entertaining collection of songs.
Holidaydream can be ordered on CD or 180-gram red-and-white splatter vinyl from Kirtland Records HERE.