10 New-ish Christmas Albums That Actually Rule


There is a lot of bad holiday music out there. Plenty of schmaltz, buckets of kitsch, and heaps of saccharine-sweet production flood the market every year. But there are also, believe it or not, a number of LPs that deserve to fill the gaps on your annual playlist. Behold, the best holiday albums from the last several years, for when you’ve worn out Bing and The King and even Babs.

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Kacey Musgraves, A Very Kacey Christmas

Musgraves is one of the quickest wits writing music these days (give any of her three stellar and non-themed LPs a spin, including this year’s acclaimed Golden Hour). The holiday spirit lucked out in 2016 when she cast her pen towards it. A Very Kacey Christmas sees the singer channeling ‘60s nostalgia while covering much-loved classic (“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”), teaming up with Leon Bridges (“Present Without a Bow”), and toking up with the Red Headed Stranger (“A Willie Nice Christmas”).

John Legend, A Legendary Christmas

It feels like a crime that the crooner waited until this year to grace us with a Christmas record. Nonetheless, it was worth the wait. Legend penned six originals for the 14-song set. While most beg for a spot on your holiday party playlist—the gooey “Bring Me Love” is downright irresistible while the Stevie Wonder-featuring “What Christmas Means to Me” is pure vintage pop—he logs one of his most tear-jerking cuts to date with “By Christmas Eve.”

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Cheap Trick, Christmas Christmas

With 18 albums in the can, the Hall of Famers finally had time for a holiday outing last year. (2017 actually saw Cheap Trick release two albums with We’re All Alright! in June.) The group penned three originals for the set and elsewhere tackled oddities like Harry Nilsson’s “Remember (Christmas)” and Wizzard’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday.” In a market that too often sees acts doing more of the same, the willingness to be different wallops.

Loretta Lynn, White Christmas Blue

Country music’s sequined queen had a productive 2016. Along with her lauded Full Circle album, her first collection in more than a decade, Lynn also released White Christmas Blue, a spry set of holiday songs. The icon previously recorded six of the 12 songs five decades ago on 1966’s Country Christmas, and there’s undeniable charm to seeing her reinterpret them again, here. Recorded with John Carter Cash (son of Johnny and June Carter Cash, who also produced Circle) at his home studio, your heart will just about break with her powerful rendition of “White Christmas.”

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JD McPherson, Socks

You’ll find no covers on the Oklahoma native’s first Christmas set—literally, none. Instead, McPherson penned 11 brand new cuts for a retro-rock holiday revival that, with no kitsch or cutesiness, beams with festive cheer. From the euphoric “Hey Skinny Santa!” to the growling “Bad Kid” to the delicate “Ugly Sweater Blues,” there’s something for everyone.

The Mavericks, Hey! Merry Christmas!

No one knows, really, what to call the sort of music the Mavericks make. (Latin-infused rock? Tex-Mex party tunes? Caribbean-inflected rockabilly?) But there is one thing we all agree on: It’s fun as hell! Same goes for the Grammy-winners’ 2018 holiday LP, which bursts with bright horns, jazzy arrangements, and a heck of a lot of swing. Raul Malo and Co. wrote eight originals for the set and rounded the album out with two covers: “Happy Holiday,” and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” which absolutely soars.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, It’s a Holiday Soul Party

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Released in 2015, Soul Party sees the legendary singer and her revered backing outfit injecting a whole bunch of funk into the yearly festivities. With bright horns and addictive melodies, new cuts like “8 Days of Hanukkah” and “Big Bulbs” are instant classics, while playful updates to “White Christmas” and “Silver Bells” will have you wondering why they weren’t done like this all along.

Smokey Robinson, Christmas Everyday

Christmas Everyday may be the Motown legend’s first solo Christmas set—released in 2017—but Robinson is hardly alone on the uber-inviting LP. Trombone Shorty guests on the swinging “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” while Jones’ cohorts the Dap-Kings appear on the glinting “You’re My Present.” All adorned with the singer’s honeyed notes, results are super smooth holiday magic.

Brett Eldredge, Glow

Brett Eldredge’s Glow is so good the singer’s now released it twice—well, sort of. First issued in 2016, the deluxe version of the set, which includes 18 tracks, arrived this year. And while Eldredge made his name cutting certified pop-country winners, it’s hard to imagine a better vehicle for his bold baritone than the throwback, big band arrangements, here. Well, actually, there is one: cue up his a capella rendition of “The First Noel,” which stuns.

Sia, Everyday is Christmas

It’s hard to not-enjoy Sia’s warm, raspy vocals. It’s even harder to not-enjoy it when she’s singing songs written with powerhouse producer Greg Kurstin (Adele, Kelly Clarkson). So given that her first holiday album, which released last year, features exactly this recipe for success, there is a certain baseline of “good” the LP never sinks below. Not every song contends for space in the Christmas music canon—“Puppies Are Forever” never really adds up to its intended charm, “Candy Cane Lane” is almost too wispy—but turn on “Underneath the Mistletoe,” an throat-ripping banger, and then turn it way up. Go on, sing along. It is Christmas, after all.