’Twas weeks before Christmas, and like every year, I had holiday albums right up to here; Some were quite rootsy, others quite cutesy, Some were quite sappy and some were … well, crappy; But I spun every one — and listened with care, I listened until I could tear out my hair; Why did I do it? I’ll tell you why; I did it so you would know which ones to buy.
3 stars = Ho-ho
2 stars = So-so
1 star = No-no
Pop & Rock
Cee Lo Green
Cee Lo’s Magic Moment
F*** Yule? Sadly and surprisingly, no. Santa’s freakiest elf plays it straight for a change, bringing in funk, soul and R&B revamps that visit Motown, Sesame Street and elsewhere. Sweet ’n’ Lo.
DOWNLOAD: Baby It’s Cold Outside (w/ Christina Aguilera)
Christmas in the Sand
Baby, it’s cold outside — but determinedly delightful vocalist Caillat will gently warm your cockles with her sunny, Sheryl Crowish California-pop. Bathing suit and sunscreen not included.
DOWNLOAD: Christmas in the Sand
A Very Merry Perri Christmas
Well, maybe not THAT merry. Pop singer-songwriter Perri’s EP is a low-key affair, with the tattooed songbird making like the new Karen Carpenter over some slow-burning piano ballads.
DOWNLOAD: Please Come Home for Christmas
Merry Christmas, Baby
Rod the Sod strikes again, rasping his way through a slate of stale chestnuts while schlockmeister David Foster slathers everything with syrup and Velveeta. Give it to granny — then run.
DOWNLOAD: Auld Lang Syne
Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night)
TSO mastermind Paul O’Neill and his army of prog-rock elves return with their first Christmas present since 2004. With five short tunes, it’s more of a stocking stuffer, but better than nothing.
DOWNLOAD: I Had a Memory
John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John
Cheese is the word as the former Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsen reunite to soullessly warble over lush jazz-pop arrangements. Even VIPs like Babs, Bennett and Kenny G can’t save this turkey.
DOWNLOAD: I Think You Might Like It
Tinsel & Lights
What do you want for Christmas? Everything? Will you settle for Everything But the Girl singer Thorn’s charming collection of poppy compositions by Sexsmith, Joni, Jack White and others?
DOWNLOAD: In the Cold, Cold Night
Dark Mark Does Christmas
Screaming Xmas Trees? Not quite. Sinister rocker Lanegan gets rootsy for his lo-fi solo EP, picking medieval fare on guitar and banjo — when he isn’t covering Roky Erikson. O, unholy night.
DOWNLOAD: Burn the Flames
HolidayDream: Sounds of the Holidays Vol. 1
Twelve rockers rocking, 11 singers singing, 10 ladies dancing — and a massive dose of psychedelically soaring gems from everyone’s favourite choir-robed orchestral-pop cult heroes. Far out.
DOWNLOAD: Silver Bells
Very Funky Christmas
Santa’s got a brand new bag thanks to Austrian bassist Stefan Redtenbacher and his crew, who convert classic carols into booty-shaking instrumental grooveathons. Shake your jingle bells.
DOWNLOAD: Deck the Halls
Scala & Kolacny Brothers
If you buy just one album this season that features alt-rock Christmas fare hauntingly sung by a Belgian women’s choir and two dudes, well, it would have to be this one. At least it should be.
DOWNLOAD: 2000 Miles
Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vol. 6 – 10
Some folks go overboard for Christmas. Like Stevens. The eccentric folk-popster’s second holiday box collects 58 originals and perennials, along with an ornament, stickers, tattoos and more.
DOWNLOAD: Christmas Unicorn
Hark! The alt-rock angels sing on this cornucopia of cool new Yule recordings by fun., Shins, Civil Wars, Calexico, Andrew Bird and many more — including some guy named Paul McCartney.
DOWNLOAD: Eleanor Friedberger’s Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me
A Very Special Christmas: 25 Years
Joy to the world redux: A galaxy of big-name stars — including Train, Xtina, Buble, Jewel, Mraz and OneRepublic — celebrate this charity disc’s 25th anniversary. More glitter than greatness.
DOWNLOAD: Cheap Trick’s I Want You for Christmas
Christmas With the Blues
Holiday music doesn’t have to be ho-ho-hum. Canadian guitar hero Gogo spikes the traditional eggnog with some searing solos, gruff vocals and muscular 12-bar workouts. Crank it up, Santa.
DOWNLOAD: Let’s Get a Real Tree
All I Want for Christmas is the Leafs to Win the Cup
Metalhead Brian Vollmer and co. are rockin’ in a winter wonderland again with this coloured-vinyl single dedicated to their hometown hockey heroes. Their rockin’ Jingle Bells is on the B-side.
DOWNLOAD: All I Want for Christmas …
Lunch at Allen’s
Enjoy some northern lights this year as the folksy foursome of Murray McLauchlan, Ian Thomas, Cindy Church and Marc Jordan join forces on a soothing set of mellow nostalgia. All is calm.
DOWNLOAD: Christmas Day
This is Christmas
Suzie is a bit of a do-it-yourselfer. The Canadian pop-rocker’s holiday display switches between secular favourites and seasonal compositions of her own. Hey, the best gifts are homemade.
DOWNLOAD: Santa (I’m Waiting for You)
East Coast roots-rocker Rankin makes a scenic detour to the North Pole with this easygoing, affable batch of country, folk and rockabilly-wrapped oldies — along with a quartet of new originals.
DOWNLOAD: Boogie Woogie Christmas
On This Winter’s Night
Everyone is busy at the holidays. So the superstar trio do some creative regifting, doubling the length of their 2010 EP with six new slices of affably endearing, harmony-rich country-pop.
DOWNLOAD: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Christmas With Scotty McCreery
His name rhymes with naughty, but American Idol McCreery’s holiday feast is several flavours of nice, balancing warm-hearted country balladry with upbeat honky-tonk and rockabilly twangers.
DOWNLOAD: Holly Jolly Christmas
Cheers, It’s Christmas
Holidays are about family and friends — and good ol’ boy Shelton welcomes both to his lightly swinging party, warmly twanging alongside Reba, Buble, wife Miranda Lambert and his mom. Aww.
DOWNLOAD: Jingle Bell Rock feat. Miranda Lambert
This is Christmas | My Christmas
The Welsh popera star gets Scrooged by her old label, who rewrapped My Christmas’s (presumably) old tracks to compete with her new, more upbeat This is Christmas. So much for goodwill.
DOWNLOAD: Santa Baby
BOTH: 1.5 stars
Home for the Holidays
Rieu ought to feel at home — this is, after all, the leonine Dutch violinist and conductor’s six zillionth serving of schmaltz and treacle. No surprise it’s about as enticing as last year’s fruitcake.
DOWNLOAD: Go Tell it on the Mountain
BOTH: 1.5 stars