Christmas music is hands-down the best part of Christmas (aside from, you know, family). Nothing makes me feel like it’s Christmas more than a good rendition of Carol of the Bells or something from the Nutcracker. They’re easy to sing along to, everyone knows them, and for most people they bring back good memories of Christmases past.
So, in order to help get you into the Christmas mood, I’ve compiled a guide to help you choose the right tracks for a relaxing night in by the fire, your family Christmas get-together, and for creating a generally awesome Christmas atmosphere just about anywhere.
Best Relaxing Albums
Michael Buble – Christmas
After a vocal teacher once made me sing Home on repeat for several long weeks, I’ve never quite been able to stomach much of Michael. The yumminess of his voice is hard to deny, though, and I am willing to repress those memories of long classes aside the piano in order to enjoy all 20 tracks of sultry, soothing Christmasness. Reccomended as background music for bubble baths, tree decorating and more bubble baths.
Coldplay – Christmas Lights
Okay, so this is technically only one song, but it’s good enough to warrant its own spot on the list. With a simple piano arrangement and honest vocals, it’s hard not to enjoy Christmas Lights.
She & Him – A Very She & Him Christmas
Describing this in three words, I’d say “acoustic hipster sweetness”. It’s soft, light, and got lots of ukelele in it, and Zooey Deschanel’s voice is exactly what you’d expect, which fits perfectly with the tone of the album. It’s 12 lazy tracks of sit-back-and-cuddle-with-someone-while-doing-nothing. If doing that is in your plans, this album has got you covered.
Hans Zimmer – The Holiday Soundtrack
Whether you’ve seen the movie or not (I haven’t), this instrumental soundtrack is relatively short and very Christmassy without being too cheesy. It’s something good to play in the background of Christmas dinner, when you want an atmospheric backdrop to your conversation.
Best Albums for Family Gatherings
Pentatonix – That’s Christmas to Me
How I just discovered this group a couple weeks ago, I have no idea. Of mostly youtube fame, their acapella renditions of Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Carol of the Bells are truly impressive. That is all.
Frank Sinatra – A Jolly Christmas
This is something both you and grandma can appreciate. Sinatra is a classic, and the arrangements are just how you would imagine them. Flawless, but unsurprising. This is utterly smooth and traditional, and sometimes, that kind of thing can really hit the spot, especially at this time of year.
Bing Crosby – Merry Christmas
This guy practically invented the Christmas album, so it would be a crime not to include him on this list. Like Sinatra, he’s nothing new- but that’s because he’s the original. It’s just not Christmas yet without a Bing Crosby rendition of White Christmas (and the movie to go with it).
James Horner – How the Grinch Stole Christmas Soundtrack
While I prefer the animated version of the movie, this album is funny in a cheesy sort of way, and has got a good mix of soft, slow and heartwarming as well as jazzy, upbeat and downright odd. It’s good for a party with kids around, and may save the adults from Let it Go on repeat.
Best for a Christmassy Atmosphere at Home
Kelly Clarkson – Wrapped in Red
This would have gone under the “family friendly” category, except for Just For Now, which is a great song but kind of a bummer for family gatherings. It’s got a long tracklist and good variety for a mostly light and poppy album. Clarkson’s vocal talent really shows here, making her easy to sing along with while you go about your errands.
Straight No Chaser – Christmas Cheer
This is another acapella group, this time all male, and absolutely delicious to listen to. Their voices blend wonderfully, and all the tracks have a nicely balanced jazz-pop feel. You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch is a highlight for me. It’s deep and utterly satisfying- something to leave on repeat while you’re doing wrapping for those bits of family you like just a little less than the others…
Family Force 5 – Christmas Pageant
Have you always dreamed of having a deep male voice sing to you about whiskers on kittens? Have you always wished that T’was the Night Before Christmas could be put to music with a heavy bassline? Then, boy oh golly, have I got a Christmas album for you. If you can get past the dorky band name, you won’t be disappointed by their fresh, danceable take on classic holiday tracks.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of great music left off here because most artists don’t do actual Christmas albums. They have scattered Christmas goodness in various compilation CDs and cameos in tv specials. There is tons I’ve left out. To help remedy that just a little, click here for a lovely alternative music playlist via Zoe London!
Is there anything else I forgot? Let me know in the comments!