Even though Christmas wouldn’t be the same without Michael Bublé and Mariah Carey playing softly from the speakers of every mall and holiday event ever, they can get a bit boring. So if you’re feeling sick of the same old Christmas albums, here are some fresh alternatives to spice up the holiday season this year:
SHE & HIM—A VERY SHE & HIM CHRISTMAS
Sweetly retro without being twee, Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward bring a folksy charm to their first Christmas album. Zooey’s dainty, sweeping voice seems tailor-made for Christmas crooning while Ward’s ukulele strumming on “Silver Bells” is subtle in a way few yuletide carols are. They even make the inherently creepy “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (shoutout to Elf, the best Christmas movie of all time!) slightly less problematic by swapping gender roles and adding some playful whistling. This album is basically a Peppermint Mocha: Zooey and Ward blend their vocal talents together to whip up a warm, festive treat.
Favourite Song: “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”
CEELO GREEN—CEELO’S MAGIC MOMENT
Okay, I admit I mostly included this one as a joke. Still, in typical CeeLo fashion, the album is fun, cartoonish, and loud. His jazzy voice is on full display on tracks like “Please Come Home for Christmas,” and his rendition of “All I Want for Christmas” is almost as soulful as Mariah’s. The gospel-choir vocals on this song are vibrant and fun, as are the brass instrumentals that kick off “Merry Christmas, Baby.” His cover of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” with Christina Aguilera is pretty sleazy—like, I almost want to step in and rescue Christina—but their combined vocal talents are undeniable. Magic Moment is definitely not the classiest recommendation on this list, as evidenced by its fantastically tacky cover, but CeeLo embraces the frivolities of the holiday season. No shame. On a side note, CeeLo, are you still alive? I swear we didn’t “Forget You.”
Favourite Song: “Merry Christmas, Baby”
ARIANA GRANDE—CHRISTMAS & CHILL
As the title implies, Ariana’s five-track holiday EP is smoky but cozy, deliv- ering original songs that explore the sensual side of Christmas. (Yeah, I didn’t know that was a thing either.) Grande’s signature techno-infused R&B style shines throughout the album, her sultry vocals reminiscent of The Weeknd. This EP offers an impressive range of styles, from the twangy guitar of “Winter Things” to the trappy beats found on “Intro.” Oh, and props to Ariana for those creative Christmas-themed innuen- dos, my personal favourite being “I’m the only drum that you gonna play.” Looks like the Little Drummer Boy isn’t so little anymore. Overall, Christmas & Chill is a hip alternative for anyone who’s tired of the classics or is in search of some seriously romantic vibes.
Favourite Song: “Wit It This Christmas”
SUFJAN STEVENS—SONGS FOR CHRISTMAS
Eclectic singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens is well known for his ambi- tious 50-states project—recording an album about each of the 50 states . (He’s only made two so far.) Songs for Christmas, a 42-track compila- tion of five separate Christmas EPs, is another testament to his ambition. Stevens’ optimistic, almost childish spirit is reflected not only in his voice but also in his song titles; you can almost imagine him yelling out “Hey Guys! It’s Christmas Time!” from a rooftop. Though his feathery, chamber-pop instrumentals consist mainly of standard banjo plucking and xylophone melodies, they create a sense of wonderment and occasional melancholy, heightened by Stevens’ earnest warbling. In an age where indie pop is dominated by cynicism and beards, it’s refreshing to hear such a wholehearted tribute to the spirit of Christmas.
Favourite Song: “Come On! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!”
WEEZER—CHRISTMAS WITH WEEZER
Weezer blasts through six beloved carols with their signature high-energy rock, frontman Rivers Cuomo belting out yuletide lyrics with that nasally voice of his. Familiar melodies are reimagined into spunky but recognizable guitar riffs over the cheerful pulse of percussion, no jingle nor bell adorning their straightforward, pop-rock instrumentals. It’s unexpectedly enjoyable to hear Cuomo sing about Baby Jesus over the distorted screech of an electric guitar on “O Holy Night,” and his cheeky shouts of “get some!” on “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
Favourite Song: “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”