HO HO WHO: Sunbears!—the emphatically monikered Jacksonville, Fla., psych-pop outfit (and occasional Flaming Lips associates), whose “Do Christmas!” 7-inch is efficient and palatably trippy, with five respectful holiday covers (plus one original) and reverb as thick and shimmery as a fresh blanket of snow. Alas, if you were eyeing this handsome sucker as a stocking stuffer—the physical version comes on clear, snowflake-shaped vinyl—it’s time to appeal to Santa for a higher spot on the nice list. All 50 hand-numbered copies have sold out.
STANDARD BEARERS: The Sunbears! versions of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “All I Want for Christmas Is You” are spirited and game, if a bit confoundingly ukulele-centric. Their “Christmas Time Is Here” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” both instrumental, are delicate to the point of slightness, but pretty enough. With its sun-faded keys and thrumming electronic pulse, the original instrumental “Everyone’s Happy, But Me,” feels like a Flaming Lips instrumental circa The Soft Bulletin, but hey, no shame there. And the best song? That’d be the opener, a fleet and fun cover of what is surely the oddest song to ever be considered a Christmas standard: Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime.”
BETTER CALL PAUL: Where McCartney went for spaciness and spaciousness—if the late-‘70s version of Battlestar Galactica had celebrated Christmas, this would’ve been its yuletide jam—Sunbears! are deliberate and direct. At 1:55, their far-more-analog take feels like a bespoke miniature of the 3:44 original. As certain covers of the song have proven, “Wonderful Christmastime” can get pretty weird and still remain as catchy as the holiday spirit. Despite their hippie-ish affect, Sunbears! aren’t going for strange here: They just want to gather some pals, tickle their careful arrangements with some seasonally appropriate glockenspiel, and have, well, a wonderful Christmastime.
CHEER FACTOR: 8/10. Fine, no one tops Macca’s version, but if this cover doesn’t make you smile, renew your Grinch card immediately.