Release Date: Oct 23, 2012
Record label: Kirtland Records
Genre(s): Holiday, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Neo-Psychedelia, Holidays
If there were ever something people are definitely not ambivalent about, it's Christmas music. For some, it speaks right to the child in them, evoking a spirit of giving and holiday cheer, while others (especially anyone who has worked in the retail sector) hear it as a harbinger of the busiest shopping season of the year, a chime and choir-filled klaxon warning to all who can hear it that the holidays are trying once again to breach the peace and quiet of their everyday lives. With such a distinct line drawn in the sand over holiday tunes, any band hoping to bridge the gap would need to be so exuberant, so filled with hope and whimsy, and so relentlessly positive that there would be just no way to feel bad when they're on-stage.
This year’s most interesting Christmas album will likely be the Polyphonic Spree’s Holidaydream: Sounds of the Holidays Vol. One, which plays with the idiom in rather bold ways. It’s an album replete with twinkly charms, Technicolor wintry soundscapes evoked with the band’s traditional mix of harps, horns, and free-floating flute. The 13 songs here are awash with ethereal vocal harmonies over textures like whale songs in the Sigur Rós vein.
Given their penchant for wearing robes and lavish orchestrations, it's amazing that Texan band the Polyphonic Spree have waited more than a decade to release a festive album. However, leader Tim DeLaughter's inner Santa has finally delivered an album complete with an accompanying live DVD and a picture of the 16-piece band on the back cover looking as if they are about to do something very nasty to a turkey. It doesn't seem to have taken much of a creative shift for them to sound ridiculously Christmassy, because the Spree do that naturally anyway.
Over the past 12 years, The Polyphonic Spree has taken its music down a myriad of elaborate side roads. From the flowing robes to the ornate chamber pop arrangements, the band has never suffered from a lack of ambition, and their willingness to explore areas of music left largely untended by their peers has earned them a cultish adoration. At this point, their willingness to reach outside the box isn’t simply allowed, it’s pretty much expected.