The Christmas Album Face-Off

TheChristmasAlbumFaceOff-2With just a week until Christmas, it’s finally time for you Scrooges to get in the spirit of the holidays. That’s right: it’s time for. . .

. . . the first ever Christmas Album Face-Off!

Let’s face it: Christmas music rules. Holiday tunes let artists take the reindeer reins and infuse their own vision into a classic’s core. But, sometimes the results are less than merry.

Here we’ve taken two fabulous Christmas albums – Holidays Rule by a compilation of artists, and A Very She and Him Christmas by She & Him. We’re going to pit them agains each other and see who emerges victorious.

 

Round One: ‘Sleigh Ride’

Both albums cover this favourite, originally written by Leroy Anderson (music, in 1948) and Mitchell Parish (lyrics, in 1950). The song has been covered about a billion times – Bing Crosby in 1954, Spike Jones in 1956, Ella Fitzgerald in 1960, The Partridge Family in 1971, The Carpenters in 1978, TLC in 1992, Neil Diamond in 1994, The Spice Girls in 1996, TLC again in 2001. . . Seriously, the list is endless.

She & Him bring their easy-going charm to the classic. They infuse a sweetness to the song, while a softly bumping bass and gently strumming acoustic guitar round out the track.

Covering the song for Holidays Rule, is fun. And fun. brings with them their big sound. And that, however, can’t be compromised. They incorporate so many instruments and sounds with such mastery that it’s not overwhelming. Instead, it’s interesting and exciting, and – I’m going there – fun.

Verdict: Holidays Rule

 

TheChristmasAlbumFaceOff-1Round Two: ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’

This duet was written by Frank Loesser in 1944. It’s a designed to sound like a conversation between two people – the wolf and the mouse. After a date, they return to the wolf’s home and the mouse wants to leave, but the wolf flirtatiously invites the mouse to stay.

As is often the case, the mouse role is sung by a woman on the version by Rufus Wainwright and Sharon Van Etten on Holidays Rule. I didn’t particularly care for their version – I found it dragged on. I get the mood they were reaching for: lazy and hazy, cosy by a fire, but it just didn’t do it for me.

Especially when you compare it to the She & Him version. In this take, Zooey Deschanel sings the part of the wolf. This version is fun and chipper, and the role reversal certainly modernizes the song.

Verdict: A Very She and Him Christmas

 

Round Three: Missing Tracks

Obviously, if each album had to record every Christmas song known to man, they’d still be in the studio. But, I have no clue how Holidays Rule came to the decision to leave out ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’. It’s a classic (as they all are) and one of my favourites.

She & Him do such a tremendous job of putting their own touches on the song, while maintaining what we all love about it. Even still, I would have been excited to hear an unexpected rendition on Holidays.

Similarly, I wish She & Him opted not to nix ‘What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?’ Deschanel did a short cover of the song with Joseph Gordon Levitt (watch it on YouTube), and I was excited to hear what she and M. Ward could do together.

 

W I N N E R

As much as I absolutely love She & Him, I have to give this to Holidays Rule. The variety of tracks (‘Senor Santa’ by Y La Bamba, and ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’ by Punch Brothers) more than make up for weak spots (‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’).

 

So what do you think? Have I been hitting the ‘Nog too hard? Or am I right under the mistletoe with this one?

Let us know in the comments!

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