Holiday discs 2012: Various Artists' Holidays Rule

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Various Artists
Holidays Rule

The songs on Holidays Rule aren’t exactly what you’d call obscure, as they’ve been in constant rotation in elevators since Thanksgiving. The great trick of this collection is that it almost makes you feel like you haven’t heard “Sleigh Ride” and “Blue Christmas” 2,492 times—and that’s just this past week. The lineup includes heavy hitters such as the Shins and Paul McCartney, the former sounding giddy to be covering the ex-Beatle’s “Wonderful Christmastime”, the latter going ultra-lounge with “The Christmas Song”. Holidays Rule doesn’t skimp on the underground acts, though. Calexico turns “Green Grows the Holly” into something melancholy but magnificent with ghostly trumpet and moaning cello, while fiddler Andrew Bird makes you wish it was New Year’s already with an authentically old-timey “Auld Lang Syne”, and Y La Bamba drags Saint Nick into the cantina for the torchy “Señor Santa (Mister Santa)”. Add Rufus Wainwright and Sharon Van Etten revamping “Baby, It's Cold Outside” into something as sexy as it is weirdly druggy, and you’ve got a compilation that more than lives up to its title.

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