A Holiday Album Fit for the Tropics
By David Rolland
There’s a long tradition of Christmas albums where a pop or rock act put their spin on holiday tunes. Elvis released one, so did Sinatra, Motown and Johnny Cash. My favorite is probably The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album where the quintet harmonizes on all the carols. By the time that album wraps up on a wholesome version of “Auld Lang Syne,” I always have a tear in my eye.
In that spirit comes Artikal Sound System’s newest album, Happy Holidays, where in a brisk 26 minutes they serenade you with an 11-song medley of seasonal numbers. The local five piece, called their previous album Welcome to Florida, and there’s certainly a Sunshine State vibe to their renditions. They reggae-fy many of the standards in a manner that might make Bing Crosby roll around in his grave, but will please Floridians who celebrate December by wrapping palm trees in lights and whose only experience with a White Christmas could get them a narcotics charge.
The proceedings start off with a jazzy piano instrumental of “Season’s Greetings,” before scuba diving into some rocksteady rhythms for “The Christmas Song.” Trust me, you know all these songs even if their titles don’t ring any bells.
People want familiarity with their Christmas albums, but the high point of the album for me was their version of the one song I didn’t know, “Eight Days of Hannukah,” where Artikal Sound System sound a little like if Gwen Stefani and No Doubt were at a Bat Mitzvah. Maybe because “Eight Days of Hannukah” wasn’t etched into their mainframes like “Jingle Bell Rock” and “White Christmas,” they let their freak flags fly a little more on it and singer Logan Rex gets to show off her pipes. They continue that fun-loving spirit with the finale “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch,” and just like the holidays, the record is over before you know it.