Holiday Music Celebrated on New Christmas Collections

Orange County Register music writer Robert Kinsler reviews some new Christmas albums by various artists including The Shins, Paul McCartney, The Civil Wars, Colby Caillat, Mandisa and Smash Mouth.

Artist: The Shins, Paul McCartney, The Civil Wars, Punch Brothers and more

Title: Holidays Rule (Hear Music)

You might be interested if you like: Holiday music compilations.

Tell me more: Certainly the most freewheeling holiday music title of 2012, “Holidays Rule” is a fantastic 17-track collection featuring a mix of Americana heroes (The Civil Wars, Punch Brothers), indie rock champions (The Shins, Fruit Bats, fun.) and even rock ‘n’ roll royalty (Sir Paul McCartney). But it are the performances themselves that shine brightest here. There are joyful pop romps (fun.’s “Sleigh Ride,” The Shins’ “Wonderful Christmastime”), old-fashioned ballads (McCartney’s jazzy “The Christmas Song,” Rufus Wainright and Sharon Von Etten delivering “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”) and dreamy indie rock (AgesandAges’ “We Need a Little Christmas”). Other highlights include The Head and the Heart’s lush rendering of “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” and The Civil War’s haunting “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Information: www.concordmusicgroup.com.

Artist: Colbie Caillat

Title: Christmas in the Sand (Universal Republic)

You might be interested if you like: Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley, Gavin DeGraw.

Tell me more: A cheerful and sun-swept take on Christmastime, singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat’s aptly-titled “Christmas in the Sand” features a mostly upbeat approach on classic favorites as well as several new original tunes. Teaming up with modern country megastar Brad Paisley on the buoyant “Merry Christmas Baby” sets the tone on the dozen-song set; the wonderful duet is enhanced by Paisley’s impressive lead guitar work sprinkled throughout the song. Later on, soul singer Gavin DeGraw playfully teams with the songstress on “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” There are several ballads on the 12-song collection (including “Silver Bells” and Caillat’s original “Mistletoe”), but those who like uptempo joy aplenty will find it here. Information: www.ColbieCaillat.com.

Artist: Mandisa

Title: It’s Christmas (Sparrow)

You might be interested if you like: Francesca Battistelli, Amy Grant.

Tell me more: Mandisa’s latest album, “It’s Christmas (Christmas Angel Edition)” is actually an expanded edition of her 2008 holiday release with additional material. Fans who didn’t get her 2008 disc should pick this one up and hear her spiritual R&B-styled take on classics such as “Angels We Have Heard On High” and “Little Drummer Boy,” as well as the modern ballad “Christmas Day” where she shares vocals with singer Michael W. Smith. Among the new recordings featured on the 2012 album release is “What Child Is This?” a song showcasing Mandisa’s emotive and powerful vocals. Information: www.sparrowrecords.com.

Artist: Smash Mouth

Title: The Gift of Rock (429 Records)

You might be interested if you like: Weezer, Sugar Ray, Cake.

Tell me more: Those music fans who already have enough of the traditional likes of holiday sounds of Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis and Frank Sinatra might really want to mix things up courtesy of Smash Mouth’s rousing “The Gift of Rock.” A 10-song journey through the San Jose, California band’s distinctive mix of modern rock styles, there is a rollicking “Father Christmas,” glam rock take on “Come On Christmas, Christmas Come On,” a punkish “Snoopy’s Christmas” and even a heartfelt “2000 Miles.” Information: www.429records.com.

Other recent high-profile holiday music releases include Rod Stewart’s “Merry Christmas, Baby,” Lady Antebellum’s “On This Winter’s Night” and Willie Nelson’s “The Classic Christmas Album.”

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