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50 New Christmas Albums, Reviewed

More than 600 holiday songs came out in 2018: Here’s a guide to the good covers, the bad art and the utterly unlistenable

Update: Since publishing our list of 40 new Christmas albums the holiday music machine churned out a few more 2018 notables for a new total of 50 albums. (Honestly, how could we leave off a new version of “Back Door Santa”?) Enjoy these new, last-minute recommendations for your holiday playlist.

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It’s that time of year again where we put aside our differences and agree that there are too many new Christmas albums. The yearly jingle bell-bottleneck is a modern pop music phenomenon. Whether artists are propelled by morality, money or Mariah Carey, we just want to know: is anything in the 2018 slush pile worthy of the Christmas canon? Rolling Stone enlisted comedian, actor and Secular Xmas enthusiast Connor Ratliff to find out. He furnished an exhaustive — yet merry! – holiday guide after listening to more than 50 new Christmas albums (that’s over 600 songs) taking into consideration album art, originality and deducting for title-track overuse. Let’s begin.

Editor’s Note: This list does not include one-off Christmas singles or spur-of-the-moment covers, apologies to Katy PerryQueens of the Stone Age and time-traveling Elton John.

 

PJ Morton Christmas With PJ Morton
22

PJ Morton: ‘Christmas With PJ Morton’

TITLE: Every time one of these actually has an original title, it makes me wish that there was a song by that name. “Christmas With PJ Morton” sounds like it would be a very fun song.

COVER ART: I like it, even though parts of it make no sense.  Is that piano too small?  Where is the piano bench, does PJ play it standing up?  (Maybe he does, forgive my ignorance!)  Regardless, the placement of the piano directly in front of his XMAS tree is strange.

LISTENING: Six covers plus two new originals by the Maroon 5 keyboardist, not a bad ratio and it doesn’t wear out its welcome, eight songs and it’s done.  I rush through it very quickly and frankly, it doesn’t sound like any of the other records this year, so points for that.  His take on the Mariah Carey song is different enough to make this worth it.

VERDICT: Frankly, I’ll confess that anyone who takes the time to issue their XMAS record on red vinyl has got my attention. I’ll probably just add it on Spotify, but if I ever see the vinyl in person I will likely buy it.

JD McPherson Socks
23

JD McPherson: ‘Socks’

TITLE: A title track! But you can buy actual socks with this album, so that momentarily cancels out my title track fatigue.

COVER ART: Superbly designed, with illustrations by Anika Orrock that invoke the feel of 1950s Peanuts paperbacks.

LISTENING:  Eleven original songs, all in the style of 1950s rock & roll, and a lot of them are funny. All of them are FUN. You could easily fool someone into thinking you discovered a gem of an album from 60 years ago. Scuff one up a little and keep someone from Googling it and you might be able to pull it off.

VERDICT: I’m straight-up buying this for my Dad, immediately. I think he will love it, and I love it, too.

Paul Williams Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas
24

Paul Williams: ‘Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas’ OST

TITLE: There is no song called “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas,” thankfully.

COVER ART: I have nothing critical to say about anything connected to Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, and that includes the cover, which shows all the main characters standing in the snow.