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.