Various Artists 

Holidays Rule

Trying to figure out what music to play when all the family is home is a pain in the ass. Mom and Dad like Tim McGraw. My brother and sister only agree on Lady Gaga. Nobody but me appreciates Leonard Cohen. So when Christmas rolls around, compilations featuring favorites my parents love and hipper bands we kids can tolerate tend to bridge the divides.

Holidays Rule, with 17 artists varying in fame from Paul McCartney to Fruit Bats, is the newest release to attempt such a goal. The first couple tracks made me queasy. Fun.’s singer performing “Sleigh Ride” sounds like Tracy Chapman attempting to be jolly, which leads into the Shins doing a vomitously overblown “Wonderful Christmastime.” The highlights of Holidays Rule are good bands like Black Prairie, Heartless Bastards and Calexico covering lesser-known holiday songs and sticking to basic jazz or pop arrangements, which makes for music that my folks and I can enjoy together. Irene Thomas’ “May Ev’ry Day be Christmas” is lovely.

My favorite track is Punch Brothers’ folky rendition of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” which takes me right back to singing in the kids’ choir on Christmas Eve, looking out at our beautiful church glowing with golden lights. When a Christmas song shuts off all your cynicism and brings you back to happy family memories, it’s doing its job. While Holidays Rule is uneven, it has a shot at becoming a regular December favorite.

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