Various Artists

Maybe This Christmas Too? (Nettwerk America)

Remember those A Very Special Christmas compilations from the late '80s/ early '90s? They were star-studded affairs, with some good (U2, Smashing Pumpkins) and some awful (Wilson Phillips, Extreme) acts contributing to the holiday spirit. The Maybe This Christmas series (which debuted last year) seems ready to claim the Christmas-comp throne, judging from Maybe This Christmas Too?.

As with last year's installment, there is a good mix of marquee names and indie-rock heroes on part Too. Of the latter, Rufus Wainwright starts things off nicely with "Spotlight on Christmas," reminding everyone of the true spirit of Christmas while taking a shot at the snotty rich kids who always get the best presents. Both Rilo Kiley and the Be Good Tanyas decide to depress us with tales of yuletide homelessness and loss that either culminate in a) redemption or b) death. The Little Baby Jesus gets a few well-earned shout-outs as well, the best of which is a minor-key version of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" by those God-fearin' folk in Sixpence None The Richer. This fruitcake gets a little dry in the middle, but things get sweeter toward the end. Badly Drawn Boy channels Phil Spector in "Donna and Blitzen," proving that he really is the best jingle writer in all of England. And, as expected, the Flaming Lips get all freaky on "White Christmas," with its Esquivelian arrangements and Wayne Coyne's most sincere impersonation of a still-decaying Perry Como.

In the end, Maybe This Christmas Too? works because the good is really good, and the rest is merely inoffensive. The sense of irony never overpowers the spirit of the season. If nothing else, this should provide a brief reprieve from those dastardly 24-hour holiday music stations.