It’s no secret, I’m a total Christmas music junkie. It used to be a weird thing once upon a time, but with people starting to play Christmas music a few days after Halloween now, I’m not looked at as the weirdo I once was. And with music being as accessible as it is now, finding new and different Christmas albums isn’t as challenging as it once was.
My brother and I used to rummage through rows and rows of CDs at Best Buy. And then we started looking though pages and pages of Christmas albums on Amazon. Anything worthy we scored was brought to Thanksgiving dinner and shown off with great pride. But now with iTunes, it’s becoming easier to do deeper searches for Christmas albums that aren’t in the pop charts. For example, this year I found a great jazz group called B3 Kings with some fantastic arrangements, and this guy Andrew McAuley with a new take on the Charlie Brown Christmas music. But those aren’t current albums. I wanted to scour the internet to find what good and unique albums that were released this year.
There are heaps of pop singer Christmas albums, smooth jazz, and reworked compilations with Frank Sinatra released every year. It’s usually all the same stuff. The same arrangements of the same songs, just with a different singer. Once in a while, someone does something unique and catchy enough that and it enters the Christmas music collective that we will come to enjoy (or be annoyed with) for years to come.
Ingrid Michaelson, Jessie J, Eric Clapton, Pentatonix, Lauren Daigle, Diana Ross, William Shatner(!?) and even The Monkees released Christmas albums this year. Most of these are decent. They are nice, but not awesome. I kept poking around and these are my top releases for the 2018 season.
The Mavericks – Hey! Merry Christmas!
I’ve never heard of this group before. I guess they had a few hits on the country charts. Either way, this album has a nice rockabilly feel to it and totally jams. With the first track Christmas Time is Coming Round Again setting the mood, it’s a great fun album. And a nice break from WHAM and Paul McCartney (no offense).
JD McPherson – Socks
What makes this album great is that it’s all original music. Songs about how socks are a lame gift, ugly sweaters, and being a bad kid. They capture the holiday feeling with being completely new and entertaining. With the nice retro-rock sound it’ll be the great soundtrack to any holiday party.
John Legend – A Legendary Christmas
I do like John Legend, but I almost passed on this. They guy has a great voice with great soulful arrangements, but his Christmas albums just didn’t seem noteworthy at first listen. But then I heard the last track, Merry Merry Christmas. I’m a sucker for that New Orleans sound and this track jams. This will definitely be a song we hear for years to come. It made go back and give the album another listen, and I’m really into now. And with a last name like Legend, how can you not like him?
Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas – Soundtrack
This is just my inner-child exploding with excitement. I grew up on the Muppets, and Emmet Otter’s Christmas Special was PURE GOLD. From the soft When the River Meets the Sea song, to the raucous River Bottom Nightmare Band, it’s all fantastic! In college my brother and I even recorded our own version of the River Bottom Nightmare Band song. Yes, I realize how that sounds.
Aloe Blacc – Christmas Funk
This is not only my favorite album released this year, but one of my all-time Christmas favorites! Aloe Blacc funks out on this. There is a nice mix of original material and cover songs. The songs he does cover, he makes them his own. In particular his version of All I Want for Christmas is you. But my two favorite tracks are Tell Your Mama, and The Mrs. Saved Christmas.
If you are a jazz fan, which it seems Christmas time is the only time most people listen to jazz, Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis has released a few singles this year which are fantastic. No terrible smooth elevator jazz here.
Another honorable mention is You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch by Tyler the Creator from the new animated movie. Definitely a fun listen!
What are your favorites to listen to?