Various Artists | Gift Wrapped II: Snowed In (Warner Bros.)

I’m not sure who David Foster is, but it’s virtually impossible to deliver a “Carol of the Bells” that doesn’t dazzle.

 
I’m a sucker for Christmas music. Where I’m very discriminating when it comes to what I regularly listen to, I can generally listen to anybody sing anything pertaining to Christmas/Hanukkah/winter/December/snow/etc. Well, almost.
Gift Wrapped II: Snowed In is 21 Warner Bros. recording artists giving their rendition of holiday songs. (As I’ve got absolutely no press info on the release, I can’t always tell which are originals and which are covers, so bear with me.) Some of these morsels are extra inviting, such as the holiday fare from Oasis (“Merry Christmas Everybody”), Regina Spektor (“December”), Foxy Shazam (“Heaven on Their Minds”…yes, the Jesus Christ Superstar song) and House of Heroes doing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” I’m not sure who David Foster is, but it’s virtually impossible to deliver a “Carol of the Bells” that doesn’t dazzle.
Also enjoyable are the Goo Goo Dolls’ acoustic “Better Days,” disc opener “Home for Christmas” from St. Louis’s Cavo, “Christmas Song” by American Bang, and Everest (“Christmas in the City”). Though it’s not my cup of tea, The Dirt Drifters’ rootsy take on “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” works well, too.
Passable but unremarkable are Kara DioGuardi and Jason Reeves doing “New York in Wintertime,” Rachel Yamagata doing “Baby Come Find Me at Christmas” (she’s still around?), and The Spill Canvas’s snooze-inducing “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” I’m not sure how the last two tracks, instrumental versions of “Hanukkah, Oh Chanukkah” by Franklin and The Red Elephant doing “Brooklyn Sleigh Ride” qualify as holiday songs. (They’re instrumental, see? There are no words, Christmas or otherwise).
And I could definitely do without (i.e., I continually skip over) Neil & Pegi Young accompanying Ben Keith for “Les Trois Cloches,” and Stardeath and White Dwarfs’ lifeless version of Wham!’s “Last Christmas.” Tegan & Sara’s cover of “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” leaves me scratching my head: Why, oh why? I want to like Devo’s “Merry Something to You” but it ends up annoying me every time. “Wonderful Christmastime” was treacherous back when Paul McCartney recorded it; oh The Ready Set, was it really necessary to regurgitate such pablum? And finally, any cover of “Little Drummer Boy” is sure to recallthe David Bowie/Bing Crosby version. Not only does The Flaming Lips’ attempt fall flat on its face, it also sounds as if Wayne Coyne forgot how to sing on key. Just…no, OK?
As Christmas compilations go, Gift Wrapped II: Snowed In is a mixed bag, to be sure. Some of the songs are quite good, and another handful are decent enough to merit repeat listens. As a package, though, the disc often falls short of expectations. My advice? Sample the tracks on iTunes and then buy only the ones worth kissing under the mistletoe to. Happy holidays. C+ | Laura Hamlett
About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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