If there were ever something people are definitely not ambivalent about, it's Christmas music. For some, it speaks right to the child in them, evoking a spirit of giving and holiday cheer, while others (especially anyone who has worked in the retail sector) hear it as a harbinger of the busiest shopping season of the year, a chime and choir-filled klaxon warning to all who can hear it that the holidays are trying once again to breach the peace and quiet of their everyday lives. With such a distinct line drawn in the sand over holiday tunes, any band hoping to bridge the gap would need to be so exuberant, so filled with hope and whimsy, and so relentlessly positive that there would be just no way to feel bad when they're on-stage. Enter Holidaydream: Sounds of the Holidays, Vol. 1 by the Polyphonic Spree. Where most acts would need to bend over backwards to shoehorn Christmas music into their repertoire, it feels like a natural fit for the massive psych-pop outfit, who already count a choir and classical instrumentation among their arsenal. And since the structure of the Polyphonic Spree doesn't have to change much, their effervescent chemistry is able to come through, adding an air of manic joy to traditionally dour songs like "Carol of the Drum (Little Drummer Boy)." Elsewhere, DeLaughter and company transform "Silver Bells" into a Beatlesque psychedelic exploration that feels more like a lost holiday-themed B-side from Magical Mystery Tour than anything else. Now, if you're someone who's against holiday music, Holidaydream probably isn't going to sway you, but unlike a lot of Christmas records, this one might actually have a chance to change your mind. While the roots of the songs remain familiar, the Polyphonic Spree inject enough psychedelic charm and whimsy into the album that, if you don't think about it too much, just might have you forgetting you're listening to seasonal jingles, and that beats the hell out of "Jingle Bell Rock" any old day of the year.
AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney