One of my quirks in my music collection, the one that drives my family crazy is my love of rock Christmas songs. Like it wasn’t enough that I love power pop in my boys’ minds, then November rolls around, and I start my quest to discover more unusual Christmas music. Back in the Fifties and Sixties, it seemed as though every pop artist was releasing Christmas music. The best Christmas album of all-time, A Christmas Gift to You from Phil Spector, was released the day President Kennedy was shot, so this brilliant album really never immediately found an audience. It was during the subsequent years that people discovered how magnificent this album was. But, in the mid-Seventies, Christmas music became uncool for artists to record. However, some of my favorite episodes of American Bandstand where those shows aired right before Christmas, where Dick Clark actually had the vision to play those Christmas songs that were popular in the U.K. That’s where I heard Elton John’s “Step into Christmas,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” The Kinks’ “Father Christmas” and Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime.”
Slowly, in the Eighties, new wave artists began to throw the stigma of recording Christmas music aside. Some absolutely magnificent Christmas songs were released during this time, such as “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses and Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne.” Then, in 1987, the classic A Very Special Christmas was released, which kicked off a new golden age of Christmas music in the Nineties. Fast-forward to 2018, and we have had nearly 30 Christmas albums released this year.
Everyone from Eric Clapton to The Monkees have released Christmas music this year. So, in an effort to enlighten you, the reader, I am going to give you my favorites of 2018.
10. Rodney Crowell – Christmas Everywhere. Sometimes, we all deserve our Christmas music bathed in Americana, and few have done it as well as the Americana guru Rodney Crowell.
9. Aloe Blacc – Christmas Funk. The title alone says it all. We are talking about a truly funky Christmas party.
8. JD McPherson – Socks. Maybe, in a decade or so, I will look back on this album more fondly than any of the others on this list. This album is a great slice of indie rock with songs about the Christmas holiday. Think Sufjan Stevens, only with a more rock soul.
7. Ingrid Michaelson – Ingrid Michaelson’s Songs for the Season. Ingrid forgoes her indie pop background for a more traditional pop sound and comes up with a holiday album that fits perfectly between Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, making this album her most mature outing ever.
6. Los Straightjackets – Complete Christmas Songbook. I prefer my holiday music set to odd arrangements and nothing’s more odd than rockabilly versions of our favorite yuletide songs. And, nobody does this sound better than the masked foursome Los Straightjackets.
5. Old 97’s – Love the Holidays. Old 97’s are the premiere alt.-country band, so you can just imagine my excitement when I saw they had released an album for the holidays. And, they have recorded a great collection of Christmas songs, both original and traditional.
4. The Mavericks – Hey! Merry Christmas! The Mavericks bring their fun Tex-Mex country sound to the Christmas world, making a great party record for that crazy Christmas party you are planning.
3. Eric Clapton – Happy Xmas! A few years ago, the rock world was shocked when Bob Dylan released his now classic Christmas album. This time, Eric Clapton is catching a little hell about doing this album, but, when done right, Christmas songs are perfect for the blues. Once the purists get over their selves, this album will be considered a holiday classic, much like Bob Dylan’s album.
2. KC & the Sunshine Band – A Sunshine Christmas. In my mind, very little music is as joyous as disco and Christmas musics. And, when the two are combined, you’ve got potential slice of heaven. And no disco artist has made a holiday album as good as KC has. This one is definitely ready-made for your office party.
1. The Monkees – Christmas Party. The Monkees followed a similar gameplan as they did on their magnificent comeback album in 2016. So, they have newly penned Christmas songs by Andy Partridge (XTC) and Rivers Cuomo (Weezer) to bring the 60s styled pop to their yuletide celebration. Who knew The Monkees would not just make one great album in the 21st century, but two?
And there you have it, my top ten Christmas albums of 2018. As stated earlier, there have been nearly 30 Christmas albums released this year. Artists such as Martina McBride, John Legend, Mike Love of the Beach Boys and Diana Ross have all released good quality Christmas albums this year. Still, my Top 10 are the albums that I consider to be the best.