Though people tire of hearing the same standards every year, listeners also want their holiday albums to be full of songs that at least sound Christmassy. For the most part, Maybe This Christmas, Nettwerk’s stab at a very merry indie-rock holiday compilation, walks that fine line with bells on.
Phantom Planet’s “Winter Wonderland” is everything a modernized holiday oldie should be, twisting tradition with fuzzy guitars and lounge-style elements for a Southern California Christmas vibe. Similarly, the potentially dangerous pairing of Barenaked Ladies with Sarah McLachlan succeeds with its upbeat, folksy stab at “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”
Maybe This Christmas also visits nonstandards on their way to joining the Christmas canon. Elvis’ “Blue Christmas” is a must-have for any night of self-pitying holiday drinking, and Bright Eyes lends the tune a modern, dreary sensibility. Loreena McKennitt’s “Snow” would be welcome at holiday cocktail parties, even though it’s not explicitly Yuletide. And Ben Folds’ “Bizarre Christmas Incident” is a playfully irreverent alternative to “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”
Other attempts at originality, however, fail miserably. Ron Sexsmith’s sleepy title track isn’t likely to be a seasonal classic, and Jimmy Eat World’s “12/23/95” is a drippy number with numbingly repetitive lyrics that have little to do with the holidays — aside from a “Merry Christmas” chorus that sounds like an afterthought.