In the next week or so I’m going to start counting down my top 25 favorite albums of 2016. In the mean time I thought I’d do a quick post on some of my favorite Christmas albums. I haven’t written about Christmas music before, and I’ve found people either hate Christmas music or don’t know that good Christmas music exists. As someone who loves Christmas music, my hope is to maybe change those perceptions.
Growing up I was pretty neutral when it came to Christmas music. We had this one cassette of generic Christmas music, not even anything cool like Frank Sinatra or Judy Garland. At one point I got my mom a Neil Diamond Christmas album, but I never really got into it. I knew all the tradition Christmas hymns from singing them in Church, though as a kid they felt old and boring. As an adult I was probably like a lot of people and didn’t think much about Christmas music except to get kind of annoyed hearing it in every store during the Christmas season. Then Sufjan Stevens decided to release some Christmas music and it change everything and that is were I shall begin.
Sufjan Stevens – Songs for Christmas
This is more than just a Christmas album, it’s a box set containing over 40 songs! It encompasses everything I’ve come to love about Christmas music. It contains traditional hymns, original songs, and plenty of fun songs to get you in the Christmas spirit. It was also the first time I really started to hear and understand the significance of the Christmas hymns I grew up singing. There’s some really power stuff in there and helps ground me during the Christmas season; reminding me of what it meant for God to become man and change history forever.
Rosie Thomas – A Very Rosie Christmas
If I want to instantly get in the Christmas spirit, all I have to do is put on this album. Thomas’ original song “Why Can’t it be Christmas All Year” has become one of my all time favorite Christmas songs. This album is great too if your sick of the standard Christmas melodies. Thomas does her own take on Christmas classics such as “Silent Night” and a very different take on The Chipmunks’ “Christmas Don’t Be Late”.
Dustin Kensrue – This Good is Still Everywhere
Dustin Kensrue is the singer of my favorite band Thrice. So when he put a Christmas album I was super exited. The album is split into two parts. The first half is secular classics, and the second half is hymns. He also has two originals on the album which are both great! If you like a more folksy acoustic vibe in your Christmas music, look no further. Dustin Kensrue has also released Christmas music under the moniker The Modern Post, which is also great!
Citizens and Saints – Repeat the Sounding Joy
If dancing get’s you in the Christmas spirit then this 5 song EP is for you! After hearing these upbeat takes on Christmas hymns, you’ll never think of them the same way again.
Page CXVI – Advent to Christmas
Page CXVI are experts at reworking old hymns and they’ve done the same here for Christmas. The changes to the classics aren’t too drastic, but just different enough to give you something new. There’s also a couple originals on here and one hymn you may not be familiar with. Also, singer Latifah Philips has an amazing voice!
Heck Ya the Halls – Heck Ya the Halls, Vol. 1 & 2
Speaking of Latifah Philips, she and Aaron Strumpel started a little Christmas side project called Heck Ya the Halls. This is a little more of an up beat and fun take on Christmas music vs Page CXVI. Philips’ and Strumpel’s voices go wonderfully together. Additionally, Strumpel plays trumpet on many of the songs which adds a nice touch.
Jon Batiste – Christmas with Jon Batiste
This album came out this year and has become an instant classic for me. Jon Batiste is the band leader on The Late Show with Steven Colbert. I’ve become a big fan of his always smiling face, his energy, and his melodica infused modern jazz. Needless to say I was really excited about this album and it doesn’t disappoint. If you like jazz and/or Christmas music, this is must have! His original song “Endless Love” will no doubt go down as one of my all time favorite Christmas songs, and has a message that is much needed in 2016. Unfortunately this album is currently an Amazon exclusive so you can only find it there, but if you have Prime you can stream it for free!
I hope you’ve found something new here and if you weren’t already a Christmas music fan, then I hope you will become one! If you’d like a sampling I’ve created a Spotify playlist including some of the artists I mentioned above and some Christmas classics thrown in for good measure. Enjoy!