Having a birthday at the beginning of November generally means getting or buying myself Christmas music for my birthday. So armed with some gift cards, I journeyed into the great unknown tonight to buy myself some jingle jangle so I could be prepared for the day after Thanksgiving.
So I decided to make you all a little treat. My Christmas music discoveries, 2010. Enjoy or ignore. [Also, these are all judged from 30-second samples. Which is kind of hilarious in and of itself. Although I have bought entire albums based off of one song’s sample (Mumford and Sons, hello.)] (Also a disclaimer: I can almost never hate O Come Emmanuel, Do You Hear What I Hear, or Auld Lang Syne. Amen.)
1. Glee: The Music – The Christmas Album
I was actually kind of excited about this album. Ok, the music on the show has been a little lamer than Season One, the production on the songs is getting sloppier, and the cast has forgotten how to lip-sync, but I had hope.
Then I listened to the samples. Holy cow. Lame, lame, lame. Oh, hey Lea Michele, you’re on every single song. If you ask me, the only thing special about these songs is that the Glee cast sings them. All the talent with none of the authenticity.
Yawn: Most of the songs on the album. Oh Christmas Tree, seriously pathetic.
Worth a Listen: Deck the Rooftop could be argued to be cool, I guess? It’s a mashup between Deck the Halls and Up on the Rooftop. Still lame. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen sounded like it had potential, mostly because we don’t get to hear Quinn solo out very often.
Pick Up: If you’re gonna pick one up here, I’d make it God Rest Ye or Angels We Have Heard On High led by Mercedes. Of course I’m a sucker for gospel choirs.
2. O Holy Night EP – Jackie Evancho
I’m not gonna lie, this kid creeps me out. She’s got something special (reminiscent of Charlotte Church but I think more pure) so check her out.
Yawn: It’s an EP, there’s not time to yawn.
Worth a Listen: All, just to believe the rumors that a 10 year old can sing like this.
Pick Up: Pie Jesu fa sho. The rest are good, but I really like her rendition of this.
3. Very Merry Christmas – Dave Barnes
FINALLY one I can purchase. A happy blend of classics and some NEW (GASP!) songs, including some original ones, really nice ones. My heeeeero. (SEE! Good samples = album purchase.) Overall, very light feel, absolutely perfect – no in your face brass section, no choirs, no pop vocals. Found some organ sounds, vintagey guitar sounds, etc.
Yawn: All I Want for Christmas is You is a nice throwback to the Mariah classic but nobody should ever cover that song. Dave makes it fun though, doesn’t take himself too seriously. The Christmas Song…geesh. Really? I could go the rest of my life without hearing this song. And I’ve actually smelled chestnuts roasting and they smell good.
Worth a Listen: Very Merry Christmas, the first track, starts off without any gimmicks and just kind of makes you be like, “Yeah. Yeah, it is Christmas. Well, yay. Let’s get fat.” Christmas Tonight is a nice duet, not sappy, very lighthearted.
Pick Up: Like I said, I bought the album. But if you only get a few tracks, pick up Family Tree, an original that is simple, just piano, but a beautiful melody. Again, Christmas Tonight was great. Mary and Joseph also a great story feel, kind of reminds me of James Taylor’s style.
4. Joy to the World – Pink Martini
This is a weird album. Like really. The band seems to market themselves as quirky though, so obviously their Christmas album would be the same.
Yawn: Santa Baby. Totally boring. Totally the same you’d expect it to be.
Worth a Listen: Schedryk has a Carol of the Bells tune, what is this language? I have no idea. Sounds like something Amaya Martin would make up. Little Drummer Boy uses a way different beat, something I feel should have a title, like “Oh, it’s a beatnik feel” or “It’s a poppy 50’s number.” But I don’t know the lingo. Auld Lang Syne is definitely joyous and kind of silly feeling. This could be fun on New Year’s Eve.
Overall, weird, but fun. This album is your cousin or family member that dresses in either a weird Christmas sweater trying to be funny or the person who needs to be offbeat even though they’re actually annoying themselves.
5. A Christmas Cornucopia – Annie Lennox
Ok this is embarrassing. I was actually kind of excited about this album. I really like Walking on Broken Glass! Well, wow. I mean, props for not using autotune, Annie, but wow. Some of the music is nice, but she shouts a lot. She’s like the kid on the front row of the Christmas pageant who sings with their mouth open as wide as it can go the entire time. You don’t SHOUT at the baby Jesus, Annie. If you sang to him in the barn all the donkeys would start hee hawing at you. (Plus you just named your Christmas album ‘Cornucopia’ AND you wore a velvet dress on the cover.)
Yikes: Il Est Né Le Divin Enfant is atrocious. It’s in French. I hear French every day, and this is really really bad French. And bad singing. Lullay Lullay is also kind of weird. Ok it’s SO weird.
At least by the time Silent Night came along she settled herself down enough to sing it somewhat gently.
6. Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You – Katharine McPhee
O Holy Night? Check. Well the title makes me want to puke. This is another album that is pretty much hey, let’s plug another vocalist into the same songs everyone else does. She does well, it’s a nice album, but nothing you haven’t heard before. She does reintroduce Who Would Imagine a King, which is a nice song, but doesn’t do much with it.
7. Christmas Collection – Olivia Newton-John (Seriously?!)
O Holy Night? Check. She does feature symphonies on a few of these. But yet again, same songs. Nothing really new done with ‘em. (Does EVERY female vocalist HAVE to do O Holy Night?!?!) Not impressed with this album on any level. Ave Maria kind of makes me feel embarrassed.
8. My First Snow – Single – Matt Morris
Beautiful song. Technically it’s not about Christmas but it’s a really pretty low-key song about winter. Also, I’ve decided to be nicer in my reviews.
9. The Gift – Susan Boyle
O Holy Night? Check. I’m nervous because she’s doing two of my three favorites and I’m afraid she’s going to ruin them. Basically every song on this album sounds exactly the same. How do you make Away in a Manger sound like Don’t Dream It’s Over? Talent, people. Raw talent.
Yikes: Hallelujah? As in, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah?! NO!!!! Back away slowly, Susan Boyle. This is Jeff Buckley territory. Don’t Dream It’s Over? On a Christmas album? Who left I Dreamed a Dream off of this album?!
Jingles and Bells – Ben Rector (2009) has a really quiet, almost reflective version of Auld Lang Syne. I like it.
Ten out of Tenn – Christmas (2008) has lots of original songs. My picks are Cinnamon & Chocolate by Butterfly Boucher. This is a sweet song, I think. Kind of an ‘appreciate the little things’ theme. Raise the Tree by Trent Dabbs is nice as well.
Wow Gospel Christmas? Score. I just love gospel music. (2010)
This Warm December: A Brushfire Holiday (Volume 1) has our dear Jack Johnson with some of his buddies. Different twists on some classics as well as some new additions.
The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs (2008) is a GREAT great album featuring all women. My picks are The Heartache Can Wait by Brandi Carlile, Winter Song by Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson, Sleigh Ride by KT Tunstall, and Holly Conlan’s version of I’ll be Home for Christmas. I would like Fiona Apple’s Frosty the Snowman if I wasn’t envisioning her rolling her eyes the entire time. Also, another Auld Lang Syne with a bunch of artists. Win!
Christmas in the Park (2010) is mostly instrumental but so great! A lot of jazz stuff, some boy’s choir tracks. I really like this one. It would be great as background music. (Which we have to play for like two days straight in our house so it darn well better be good or we have to listen to that scary Christmas flute music.)
What I was hoping for in Annie’s album: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y25stK5ymlA