Have Yourself An Indie Little Christmas: ‘Holidays Rule’ Album Review

Holidays Rule, The Head and the Heart

Looking for some last-minute holiday cheer that will satisfy your Christmas needs while still maintaining your indie/alt street cred. Holidays Rule is a 17-track holiday album that will have you jamming all the way to the new year. What’s that you say?

Holidays rule

You’re tired of the same ten songs that are on every Christmas album ever?

Say no more, my friend; say no more. When I first listened to Holidays Rule, I only recognized the first four songs or so, but that was the great part about it! It was – finally – something new. What initially drew me in to Holidays Rule was my favorite band, fun. They sing the first track on the album, a joyfully techy cover of the classic ‘Sleigh Ride’. However, I took a chance on the other sixteen tracks when I bought a hard copy of the album off amazon.

Not only is the album great on its own, it also introduced me to some of my newest obsessions in music…

Holidays Rule: Classics with a twist

Boy, am I glad I did! Here we have an album that can boast a track sung by the legendary Paul McCartney (The Christmas Song), while the alt rock band The Shins covers McCartney’s own Wonderful Christmastime with enough energy to rock you through your finals. Not only that, but you might recognize names like Heartless Bastards and The Head and the Heart who sing Blue Christmas and What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? respectively.

Not only is the album great on its own, it also introduced me to some of my newest obsessions in music: Fruit Bats, AgesandAges, and Punch Brothers. I loved their songs on the album so much that I ventured out to try some of their non-holiday music, and I was not disappointed.

New Faves? Check out these bands:

Holidays Rule’s It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas has a youthful energy that I’ve never heard in that song, even though I’ve heard it every November and December for the last 16 years. The band behind that energy, Fruit Bats, has an equally unique sound in their latest album, Absolute Loser. And while I’m in no way, shape, or form a fan of country, there’s something about the peppy mellow-ness (what an oxymoron) of this folksy album that makes it perfect for walking, driving, or doing homework.

Holidays Rule Fruit Bats
Fruit Bats, via YouTube

I don’t know if you like the show Glee, but a few years back they covered the song We Need a Little Christmas, and while I love Glee (I promise, I really do), their version is just a little too much, if you know what I mean. On Holidays Rule, We Need a Little Christmas is sung by the Portland-based rock band, AgesandAges. It’s the kind of mellow little carol you want playing in the background when you’re decorating your holiday tree, and lately I’ve been getting into their second album, Divisionary. Like their cover of We Need a Little Christmas, the whole album is the perfect kind of mellow to just fade into the background while also offering some insightful lyrics and infectious melodies.

Holidays Rule

And I’ve saved the best for last, Punch Brothers. Now, I’m not a huge fan of religious songs, aside from that annual earworm, O Come All Ye Faithful.  Nor was I a fan of folk before this album, but their cover of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is just incredible. It’s got an instrumental break that makes you feel like you’re in the dramatic interlude of an adventure movie. And their album Antifogmatic doesn’t disappoint on that front, either. It’s all high-energy layers of stringed instruments with a clear, smooth voice to carry you through it. My personal favorite track on the album is called The Woman and the Bell, and it’ll get stuck in your head for weeks, I promise you.

Holidays Rule
Punch Brothers, Austin City Limits
But the gift of Holidays Rule doesn’t end there! (see what I did there?)

While I couldn’t find anything by Black Prairie or Sallie Ford that really suited my taste, their cover of Everybody’s Waitin’ for the Man with the Bag is the kind of festive bop we all need in our lives.

I encourage you to take a look at Holidays Rule! Bands and artists featured on the album that I didn’t list above include: Rufus Wainright (feat. Sharon Von Etten), The Civil Wars, Calexico, Holly Golightly, Irma Thomas with Preservation Jazz Hall Band, Eleanor Friedberger, Y La Bamba, and Andrew Bird.

Give them a try, and you just might find a new favorite!

Cover image via Sub Pop.

Also published on Medium.