Friday, November 23, 2018

2018 Christmas Music Roundup

I've wanted to do this for years, but I'm finally getting to it this year. There are new Christmas albums out, and of those of interest? Well...

The Nice List

Ingrid Michaelson's Songs for the Season is basically exactly what I look for in traditional holiday fare. Far too many singers, when going for the more typical songs, make it more about them than make it about the music. Michaelson wisely gives us a presentation of Christmas music that has her identity stamped on it without overpowering the whole production. There may not be a better pop singer to do this these days, so make sure this hits your rotation.

JD McPherson's Socks is a great set of Christmas originals by someone who has kept his music in the retro side of things for years now. I've loved a lot of his music, and Socks just has that old time radio feel to it that feels appropriate for the season.

The Old 97's Love The Holidays is an appropriately goofy and fun Christmas album that combines the personalities of the band with the seasonal songs, both traditional and original. Nothing cringeworthy at all here, just a fun listen that actually reminds me a lot of the superlative Christmas Caravan from the Squirrel Nut Zippers 20-odd years ago. Make sure you grab the version with the traditional holiday songs at the end, as that turns a good album into a great one.

The Naughty List

Eric Clapton's Happy XMas is fine, I guess. Clapton is a legend in his own right, and I guess I just would think that someone of his stature and his love for music would have something that didn't sound so paint-by-numbers. If this didn't have Clapton's name on it and you heard it, I don't believe anyone would even give it a second glance, sadly.

The Mavericks' Hey! It's Christmas! is not the joyless affair Clapton's is, but it is surprisingly mediocre in the grand scheme of things. When we have a glut of rootsy holiday fare this year, it's probably on the upper end of solid listens but still isn't quite what I hoped it would be.

Rodney Crowell's Christmas Everywhere is at least thematically appropriate in sounding as curmudgeonly as the song titles suggest, but the schtick gets old fairly quickly for me. There are solid moments, for sure, but on a whole it is not what you're likely to be looking for.

The WTF List

No one was asking for The Monkees Christmas Party, but we got it in our stockings anyway. I don't want to abuse them too much, but their continued efforts at renewed relevance just hasn't worked for me, and this Christmas album (which includes some heavy hitting collaborators) isn't helping. Not a failure as much as just strange.

William Shatner's Shatner Claus is exactly what you think it is, and if that sounds appealing to you, well, you're in for a treat. Otherwise...

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