While Christmas music can be annoying to some and maybe even a bit of a joke to others, it’s undeniable that with all the artists making merry melodies these days there will be some amazing holiday gems.
To make your yuletide listening that much easier, we’ve combed through this year’s best holiday releases to make sure you’re in the spirit rather than feeling like Scrooge.
Believe us, if grouchy Phi Phi O’hara can get excited for Christmas morning, so can you.
One of the few artists to release a full album of holiday hits, Australian pop superstar Sia’s Everyday Is Christmas is actually full of originals. Harking back to her earlier music and even her more sombre tracks, the album runs the full gamut of Sia’s talents, while making the theme feel more clever than obnoxious. “Santa’s Coming For Us” is the runaway track of the record with just the right amount of cheer and funky grooves, taking listeners away with its hefty brass swing.
Ty Waters’ “Everything I Want For Christmas” is a percussion heavy track with R&B soul, adding a welcome sense of bounce to the holidays. Professing more love and less presents, the track’s upbeat and joyous energy is a contagious mix that will have you singing around the house.
Folk guitar and downbeat swing comes in on JJ Shiplett‘s “Maybe This Christmas” as he sings about the mixed sense hope and sadness that comes with being alone over the holidays. Taking a deeper sense of emotion and showing the darker but more relatable side of the season, Shiplett makes a track that stands out emotionally.
Playing to the tradition of more boisterous pop singer Christmas tracks, “It Won’t Be Christmas” by Emma-Lee is one of those immediate feel-good songs about having your lover come home for the holidays. Bouncing with piano, groovy harmonies and a choir that could lift you up the chimney, the track is full of excitement (and just the right amount of resentment for other Christmas songs).
Giving her own spin on the sound, Kelly Clarkson really closes out her album of holiday covers with a triumphant boom on “Christmas Eve.” Yes the track sounds like many hits before it but Clarkson’s rolling bridges and exuberant vocals really set this one apart as the brass goes on full blast.
The Sheepdogs‘ spinoff Bros bring their vintage rock flavours in a double-package this year with “It’s Christmas Day” and “These Things Comfort Me.” The massive harmonies are emboldening and the welcoming call to come together is all too easy to follow in the mix of whistling and organs. They even take a lo-fi shuffle with plenty of bells here, making something more akin to a Kinks track, making the holidays more funky than pop.
Bringing a little more folk and country to the mix, Sexiest Man Alive Blake Shelton offers up a more naturally toned energy on his album Cheers It’s Christmas. Whether it’s the religious slow-burn of a track like “Savior’s Shadow” that looks to the holiday’s origins or the country dance hop of “Two Step ‘Round the Christmas Tree,” Shelton speaks to everyone. “Christmas Eve” even brings out Shelton’s partner Gwen Stefani for the massive traditional-sounding pop, making the harmonies and choral arrangements all the more massive. Canada’s own Blue Rodeo gives their more lively take on these sounds with their A Merrie Christmas To You as they blend classics with some of their own tracks for a record that feels full of love and originality.
For those looking for a little more traditional crooning Christmas music, Josh Groban has you covered on his Noel record. “White Christmas” hits those classic notes sincerely with a swelling sense of joy and excitement, but it’s the lovely duets of “Christmas Time Is Here” with Tony Bennett that really do his album justice. Stripping to vocals and piano, there’s something extra tender about Groban’s cover of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” that will make your spirits bright. Groban also brings his orchestral arrangements to John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” not changing too much on the track outside of his vocals. Echosmith and Hunter Hayes take on the John Lennon track too, really changing things up as they throw a bouncing rock beat behind it.
And with that, wishing you a rockin’ holiday season, full of great food, friends, family, and music!