Jingle bell rock, country, pop, and soul: 20 new holiday albums for the season

Craig Rosen

It’s that time of year again, and your friends in the music business have plenty of new releases and classic reissues to provide the perfect soundtrack for your holiday season. Artists serving up festive new music range from Gwen Stefani and Sia to Smokey Robinson and Herb Alpert — and if you prefer the classics, you can always dig into a reissue of Vince Guaraldi or a classic compilation of material by Elvis Presley or Frank Sinatra.

Sia, ‘Everyday Is Christmas’

The mysterious singer-songwriter teased the album on social media with a naked photo of her backside, saying that someone was threatening to unleash nude photos of her, so she beat them to the punch. (“Everyday is Christmas!” she Instagrammed.) Whatever the case with the photo, it’s clear Sia is revealing more than most stars do on a holiday album. She wrote 10 originals with superstar collaborator Greg Kurstin for the set, including the bubbly first single, “Santa’s Coming for Us,” and the somber, piano-based “Snowman.” There’s not a cover in sight.
(Photo: Atlantic Records)

Gwen Stefani, ‘You Make It Feel Like Christmas’

The Voice coach and sometimes No Doubt frontwoman was inspired to write a seasonal song while visiting boyfriend Blake Shelton’s Oklahoma ranch. That initial inspiration soon snowballed into a full-fledged holiday album, featuring six originals and six covers of Christmas classics, ranging from Wham!’s “Last Christmas” and “Santa Baby” to “Let It Snow” and “Silent Night.” Shelton guests on the sentimental title track. Gwen has managed to find the seasonal sweet spot between the Spector-produced girl groups of the ’60s and ’90s diva Mariah Carey.
(Photo: Interscope)

Cheap Trick, ‘Christmas Christmas’

Rockford, Ill.’s finest offer up their first holiday set, featuring three originals and a wide variety of Christmas classics and lesser-known tunes, ranging from a no-so-silent take of the traditional “Silent Night” and a revved-up version of the Ramones’ “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” to a rockabilly-tinged rendition of Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sans’s classic Saturday Night Live carol “I Wish It Was Christmas Today” and a spirited run through the Kinks’ “Father Christmas.” (Photo: Big Machine Records)

Hanson, ‘Finally, It’s Christmas’

Two decades after 1997’s hit holiday album Snowed In, the brothers Hanson revisit the holidays with a new set of seasonal tunes, featuring four originals and such standards as “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Winter Wonderland.” Also included are the brothers’ takes on Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Wonderful Christmas Time” and Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas.” They may no longer be cute and cuddly kids, but Hanson prove they can still bring the holiday cheer. (Photo: 3CG Records)

Fantasia, ‘Christmas After Midnight’

The Season 3 American Idol winner delivers her first holiday set with this 12-track collection that includes the usual fare (“Silent Night,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”) and a few curveballs, like a cover of James Brown’s “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” and a version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” featuring CeeLo Green. (Photo: Universal Music LLC)

Smokey Robinson, ‘Christmas Everyday’

This holiday set from the Miracle man is an Amazon exclusive, featuring three originals, including the title track, which he first recorded way back in 1963 on Christmas With the Miracles. Covers include Robinson’s take on Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas” and Charles Brown’s “Please Come Home for Christmas”; guests include the Dap Kings, Take 6, and Trombone Shorty. He’s 77, but this set proves Smokey can still sing. (Photo: Amazon)

Herb Alpert, ‘The Christmas Wish’

Nearly 50 years after he scored a big seasonal smash with The Christmas Album, the legendary musician and record executive is back leading a 77-piece orchestra and choir through more holiday hits. The set also reunites Alpert with some old friends, including Richard Carpenter, who played celesta on “Merry Christmas, Darling,” and lyricist Paul Williams, who wrote the album’s title track. These are tasteful tunes that will provide the perfect soundtrack to your holiday meal. (Photo: Amazon)

98 Degrees, ‘Let It Snow’

Eighteen years after releasing their first holiday album, This Christmas, the veteran boy band — led by the brothers Lachey — goes back to the well. The album includes the original tune “Season of Love” as well as such Christmas classics as “The First Noel,” the title track, and “Little Saint Nick.” If you grew up a fan, you’ll likely still appreciate them, even after the boys have grown to men. (Photo: Target)

Tom Chaplin, ‘Twelve Tales of Christmas’

Keane singer Tom Chaplin follows up his acclaimed solo debut, 2016’s The Wave, with his first holiday collection. Produced by David Kosten and recorded in part at Abbey Road, it features eight originals along with Chaplin’s interpretations of four Christmas classics, including the Pretenders’ “2000 Miles” and Joni Mitchell’s “River.” Chaplin offers a mature, less saccharine alternative of holiday fare than some of the bigger-named stars on his list. (Photo: Universal Music LLC)

The Minus 5, ‘Dear December’

The revolving cast of characters led by former Young Fresh Fellows leader and current Filthy Friend Scott McCaughey and ex-R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck bring the seasonal joy on this set featuring a whole slew of guest vocalists, including the Posies, M. Ward, Chuck Prophet, former R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills, Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy, and Death Cab for Cutie’s Benjamin Gibbard. Titles on the album full of McCaughey-penned tunes include “Festival of Lights (Hanukkah Song), ” “Johnny Tannenbaum, “Merry Christmas Mr. Gulp Gulp,” and “Yule Tide Me Over.” A limited-edition vinyl LP was made available for Black Friday Record Store Day. Judging by the preview track, “When Christmas Hurts You This Way,” this album will be a kick — possibly in the heart. Making it a bittersweet affair is the fact that McCaughey suffered a stroke in mid-November, so buy this album for yourself and those on your holiday list. The royalties will likely go toward his recovery fund. (Photo: Yep Roc)

Lindsey Stirling, ‘Warmer in the Winter’

The electric violinist, YouTube sensation, and Dancing With the Stars contestant gets in the holiday mood by mixing the sounds of an 80-piece orchestra with electronic, trap-style drums. Songs include “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” with Sabrina Carpenter, and the title track, featuring Trombone Shorty. It’s this season’s most interesting mix of traditional and modern instrumentation. (Photo: Universal Music LLC)

Tav Falco, ‘A Tav Falco Christmas’

The rockabilly madman, who once counted the late Alex Chilton as a member of his band, offers his take on the seasonal classics “White Christmas,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” and “Holly Jolly Christmas.” He’s backed by a band that includes Mike Watt of the Minutemen and drummer Toby Dammit, the touring keyboardist for Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. (Photo: Org Music)

The Beatles, ‘The Christmas Records’

During the height of Beatlemania, from 1963 through 1969, the Fab Four recorded and released holiday messages and songs on flexi-discs for their loyal fanclub members. Those rarities are now being widely released for the first time as a boxed set of colored vinyl singles in sleeves with the original flexi-disc artwork along with a 16-page booklet featuring notes on the recordings and reprints of the band’s National Newsletters, which were sent out to fanclub members with the holiday flex-discs. Note: Four out of six of the singles are one-sided. This is more of a collectors’ piece than a traditional Christmas album. (Photo: Getty Images)

Vince Guaraldi Trio, ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’

The 1965 soundtrack to the classic animated TV show gets the reissue treatment on 180-gram vinyl. While some may dismiss this as merely music from a cartoon, its success is nothing to scoff at — it’s the second-best-selling jazz album of all time, topped by only Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. It’s a tried-and-true classic. (Photo: CBS)

Josh Groban, ‘Noel’ (10th anniversary edition)

The crooner celebrates the 10th anniversary of his classic holiday album — one of the most successful holiday albums ever, with 7.5 million sold worldwide — via this expanded reissue. The original 13 songs are complemented by six additional tracks, four of which are previously unreleased, including a cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” Groban has a strong, pure voice, but it might be a little schmaltzy for some. (Photo: WEA/Reprise)

REO Speedwagon, ‘Not So Silent Night: Christmas With REO Speedwagon’

The band’s 2009 holiday set has been remastered for this reissue, which features four bonus tracks and a new recording of the band’s original Christmas tune, “I Believe in Santa Claus.” Covers include such holiday classics as “Silent Night,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” “Deck the Halls,” and, once again, John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” If Cheap Trick are too edgy for you, this is a safe, mainstream rock alternative for the holidays. (Photo: Sony Music)

Frank Sinatra, ‘Ultimate Christmas’

This compilation features 20 of Ol’ Blues Eyes’ best holiday recordings, drawn from his Capitol and Reprise years. Keeping with the family spirit of the holidays, three tracks, including “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” feature Sinatra with his offspring, Nancy, Tina, and Frank Jr. The set is offered on CD and a two-LP vinyl set, as well as a limited-edition two-LP white vinyl version. You can’t go wrong with Sinatra singing holiday classics. It’ll be a big hit with the grandparents. (Photo: Capitol Records)

Elvis Presley, ‘Christmas With Elvis and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’

This isn’t a straight reissue, rather a “reimagining” of some of the King’s holiday recordings from 1957’s Elvis’s Christmas Album and 1971’s Elvis Sings the Wonderful World of Christmas with new arrangements performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. This new holiday album follows two other successful mashups of Elvis with the Royal Phil — 2015’s If I Can Dream: Elvis Presley With the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and 2016’s The Wonder of You: Elvis Presley With the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. A deluxe version of the new holiday set includes four bonus tracks of symphonic versions of songs from the Peace in the Valley EP. Purists might cringe that the original recordings have been augmented, but the casual fan might just enjoy the sweetening the strings bring. (Photo: RCA Records)

Various artists, ‘NOW That’s What I Call Merry Christmas’

Possibly the most diverse holiday collection ever assembled, the holiday edition of the bestselling NOW series is updated for 2017 with a new version of Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas” augmented by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Also included on the 20-track set spanning six decades are seasonal songs from a varied selection of artists, ranging from Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande to Burl Ives and Bing Crosby with David Bowie. (Photo: UTV)

Various artists, ‘ Bloodshot Records’ 13 Days of Xmas’

Proving that holiday compilations aren’t strictly limited to platinum-selling megastars, Chicago-based indie label Bloodshot rounds up left-field recordings ranging from James Elkington’s intimate, acoustic “Christmas Is Now Drawing Near at Hand” to Zach Schmidt’s heartbreaking, pedal-steel-laden “I’m Drunk Again This Christmas.” (Photo: Bloodshot Records)

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