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.
So while The Strokes or Arctic Monkeys might sidestep the idea of an all-covers Christmas album, it makes perfect oddball sense for the Spree to put their whimsical twist on a stable of yuletide classics. But while the 13 tracks on Holidaydream: Sounds of the Holidays Volume One certainly don’t lack the band’s trademark quirk and grandiosity, the band is also careful not to let its bone-bred eclecticism overrun things. Instead, the album hits a balance between tweaking formula and paying homage to tradition.
True to the album’s title, Holidaydream honors the spirit of such Christmas classics like “Silver Bells”, “Silent Night”, and “White Christmas”, heightening the sense of wonderment with heavy doses of strings, woodwinds, and lush choral arrangements. But the band re-imagines the music in their mold just enough to offer fans something fresh. A truncated, two-minute version of “White Christmas” sounds almost springlike in its tranquility, while “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow” is similarly lighthearted, injecting the holiday favorite with a healthy dose of baroque ’60s pop.
It’s a delicate balancing act when a band attempts to rework Christmas music, but surprisingly, from an act known for upending expectations, Holidaydream’s greatest asset rests in the Spree’s restraint.
Essential Tracks: “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow”, “White Christmas”