A half-dozen cool things in music, from two points of view:
Rod Stewart, "Merry Christmas, Baby." On his first yule record, he roasts almost all the chestnuts with class. With guests Ella Fitzgerald (on tape), Trombone Shorty, Dave Koz, Mary J. Blige, Michael Bublé and Cee Lo Green, it's the perfect stocking stuffer for nearly anyone.
The Polyphonic Spree, "Holidaydream: Sounds of the Holidays Vol. 1." This adventurous Dallas symphonic pop-rock group deftly re-imagines familiar fare in a compelling and occasionally alienating fashion. Cinematic, moody, maddening, cheerful and bright.
"It's a SpongeBob! Christmas Album." Nothing says quirky Christmas like this Pu Pu platter from Bikini Bottom, with a cast of rock legends (James Burton, Al Anderson and Jonathan Richman) and sweet and snarky waterlogged tunes. Fun for any age, no batteries required.
MARTIN KELLER, MINNEAPOLIS WRITER/PUBLICIST
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Paloma Faith, "Fall to Grace." This Brit tries to wail like Florence Welch, but she doesn't have the pipes. So she comes across like a poppier Adele, with uneven material. Still, a pop-soul siren worth watching.
The Time Jumpers, "The Time Jumpers." This group of top-notch Nashville studio players (plus Vince Gill) has a regular Monday night gig at a local club. Their debut album is a collection of originals that evoke Bob Wills, Patsy Cline and Jimmie Rodgers. "The Time Jumpers" is timeless country.
Led Zeppelin, "Late Show With David Letterman." It was all talk and no music, but who knew John Paul Jones was so witty?
JON BREAM, STAR TRIBUNE