Holiday music has always been a pretty big deal in my family, with some very strong opinions about what albums are the perfect amount of Christmas goodness and what albums could make you want to never hear another Christmas song ever again. (My sister and I will never see eye-to-eye on the Kenny G holiday albums.) We would play holiday albums non-stop from the day after Thanksgiving (never before) until New Years. It was a kind of like working in retail during the holiday season.
As an adult, I’ve carried on the tradition of listening to holiday music non-stop in December (although, often I will listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving… but don’t tell my family that!) Over the years, I’ve found there are some albums I really look forward to listening to every year. Here are my top picks for albums to get you into the holiday spirit:
Barenaked For the Holidays by the Barenaked Ladies is a newer discovery for me. This is an album my mom sent me when I was 23 and moved into my first post-college place. I was in a townhouse with two roommates and we popped the album on while making dinner one night and listened to the whole this straight through. It instantly became one of our favorites and I very much recommend listening to it all the way through and in order for your first listen. For anyone who is a 90s child like me, this album has a total nostalgia feel to it. I’ll freely admit I was totally into this band when I was in like 6th grade and have a soft spot for them. I also appreciate the addition of Hanukkah songs on this album.
A Classic Christmas Album by Kenny G is one of my personal favorites, though it seems to be a bit of a controversial choice as not as many people are into the smooth jazz as I am. (Expect for in China; when I lived there I heard Kenny G on the radio, in malls, and coffee shops all the time!) This has been one of my favorites since I was a kid for a couple of reasons: First off, I feel like it’s a nice, mellower Christmas vibe than many other albums. Second, Kenny G is one of my sister’s least favorite artists, so when we would get into fights as kids, I always knew I could just pop on this festive saxophone and annoy the crap out of her. (I’m sure my parents loved this.) To this day, I tend to listen to this album in the evenings when I want something to wind down with during the holidays.
Also one of my favorite Christmas movies as a kid, the Home Alone 2 Soundtrack is a gem. We listened to this all season long when I was growing up. It also happens to be the only holiday album I listen to when any “pop” versions of Christmas songs. There just so happens to be TLC Christmas song on this album! This is another album that gives me serious nostalgia anytime I listen to it. I recommend recirculating it into your holiday rotation, particularly if you have a soft spot for 90s hits.
I love Zooey Deschanel and subsequently end up listening to a fair amount of She & Him. They have two Christmas albums out but A Very She & Him Christmas is probably my favorite. I even own it on vinyl. This album is full of fun renditions of traditional holidays song, including a version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” where the man’s and women’s parts have been reversed (making it only slightly less of a creeper song). Classic done well.
Bing Crosby’s Merry Christmas is as classic Christmas as you can get. I didn’t get introduced to this album until about mid-through college and I’ve been listening to it ever since. It’s also part of my Christmas vinyl collections. It’s hard for me to find any artist I associate more with Christmas than Bing Crosby, particular since he is in two of my favorite holiday movies as well. I would say Frank Sinatra is a very close second in this category.
So I grew up singing in an acapella choir and still enjoy a fun acapella group. Christmas Cheer by Strait No Chaser is my go-to album for this style of music. The group has many holiday albums, and while they are all good, this one is my person favorite. I especially like the deluxe version because it include a few other musical numbers I love (such as Rehab, Africa, and Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You). I find this to be a fun, Christmas party type mix.
I pop on this soundtrack when I’m still feeling Christmas-y but need a break from the normal holiday mixes. It had a range of songs that aren’t exactly Christmas songs, but because the movie is a holiday one, I tent to still feel like it’s a bit more festive than listen to Top 40 Radio, etc.
I don’t have any one specific Hanukkah album that I listen to, but I do have a couple of different Hanukkah playlists that I listen to a lot. I happen to use Google Play for most of my playlists and music listening, but I’ll create a Hanukkah play list in my Spotify for everyone for Hanukkah 2018—mark your calendar, or leave a comment in the section below if you’d like a sneak peak at my top Hanukkah songs!
GRETCHEN IS A WRITER-BASED IN PORTLAND, ORE. SHE GOT HER START AS A JOURNALIST WORKING ON THE SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND RESTAURANT BEAT BEFORE MOVING INTO COPYWRITING AND ADVERTISING WORK. SHE CURRENTLY BLOGS AND WORKS AS A FREELANCE WRITER.