Top 12 Christmas Albums Part 4: The Top Four!

I took my 64 Christmas albums and separated them into the two categories of “This might be in my top 12” and “Nah” and then ranked them all.

Welcome to the top 4:



Artist: Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra

Album: A Very Ping Pong Christmas

I can’t remember how I came across this album but I know for a fact that it was the drums that initially drew me in. The percussion on this album is so strong not only in the groove but the tone.  Every song is essentially a break beat.

This album is all over the map but it remains cohesive and touches on so many elements that I can hardly resist when it comes to music: Funky bass, schloopy beats and even a vox-box solo.

I’m just going to lay out some highlights for this one:

  • The organ on “Do You Hear What I Hear?”
  • The horns throughout the album
  • The bass throughout the album
  • The sax meltdown at the end of “Do You Hear What I Hear”
  • The fuzzed out guitar solo on “Deck The Halls”
  • Guitar solo interplaying with the flute on “Carol of the Bells”
  • The staccato rhythm guitar on Silent Night pairs perfectly with the saxophone and evokes an old doo wop feel
  • The talk-box solo on “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
  • At the end of Carol of the Bells there is a guitar solo that for just a moment sounds like it’s going to reference the melody of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” but instead ascends into a complete psyc-out.

This instrumental album (except for a few vocals on God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen) sounds like a soundtrack to a movie. I say it would be a perfect soundtrack for every groovy moment you have this Christmas season.



Artist: Vince Guaraldi Trio

Album: A Charlie Brown Christmas

My parents have a Christmas decoration that is Snoopy and Woodstock with a little piano resting on some fake snow.  When you press a button it cycles through three short samples from this album. As soon as this decoration makes its appearance during the holidays it is irresistible to children. Every child that walks by has to press it until it plays “Linus and Lucy” and, once it starts, they spontaneously start laughing and dancing. I don’t know a better way to describe the timeless joy, energy, appeal and beauty of this album.

It has incredible nostalgia factor. It’s mostly peaceful, sit-in-front-of-the-Christmas-tree and enjoy life music with some upbeat tunes mixed in. The interplay between the trio is so dynamic.

Personal favorite track: “Skating.”



Artist: Bad Religion

Album: Christmas Songs

Really the only downside to Christmas music is I like the majority of my music fast and heavy. Punk, metal, etc. Unfortunately those genres are simply anemic when it comes to holiday music.

Imagine my joy and surprise when Bad Religion released a Christmas album.

Things got even crazier when I bought it and realized 1. It’s completely un-ironic and 2. It has one of the highest Christ centered songs to “holiday” songs ratios of any of my Christmas albums. Literally every song is a carol except for their spin on the Ramones version of “White Christmas” and the last track, “American Jesus.”

This album has received the most play time of all Christmas albums in my home since it came out. If we get bored with a Christmas album, we switch to Bad Religion. If the music is too slow, we switch to Bad Religion.

Greg Graffin, one of the greatest voices in punk rock, starts the album with an a cappella chorus of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” the band rages in immediately after and the album never lets up. They stay faithful to the melodies but slip in some great guitar solos (see the end of “O Come, O Come Emanuel” for a blazing, to the point example).

In Ephesians 3:20 it says “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” and this album was literally something I could have never imagined would have happened but I’m so glad it did.


Artist: Sufjan Stevens

Album: Songs for Christmas, Silver & Gold

It was really close between Sufjan Stevens and Bad Religion but Sufjan wins due to sheer volume and variety. Each of these albums is a 5 EP box set that comes with scores of added goodies. Between the two sets you’ll find extras such as a fold-it-yourself paper star ornament, stickers, temporary tattoos, a poster, essays, a short story by Stevens, chord charts, lyrics, a comic strip, a family portrait poster, photos, and an animated video. “Songs for Christmas” has a 42-page booklet with an original Christmas essay by acclaimed American novelist Ricky Moody and “Silver & Gold” has an 80 page booklet.

Schizophrenically switching from stripped down, beautiful, delicate melodies and organic instrumentation to glitchy, electronic madness these albums genre bend and the listener is the winner.

Like a perfectly balanced mix-tape, the energy levels and instrumentation provide the listener with a holiday music roller coaster.

I love the variety of Christmas music that is out there from traditional to original tunes; from classic to modern arrangements and, I suppose, what makes these two albums top my list is that you can find all of that variety encapsulated in each one.

Happy listening and Merry Christmas!

All images from the Cover Art Archive except Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Christmas from Discogs.

Top 12 Christmas Albums Part 3: Eight Through Five

I took my 64 Christmas albums and separated them into the two categories of “This might be in my top 12” and “Nah” and then ranked them all. Seventeen made the cut. I ranked those 17 and came up with my top twelve. The last post started the top 12. Here are albums eight through five…



Artist: David Crowder Band

Album: Oh For Joy

I like the blend of musical genres including the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) country influence that you hear so strongly in Crowder’s solo work. This album is one that the whole family loves and it has a nice live version of a heavy “Carol of the Bells.” (Extra credit for their Nutcracker cover.)



Artist: Dave Brubeck

Album: A Dave Brubeck Christmas

There was this strange period of time a few years back where I found out about Dave Brubeck and subsequently bought 7 of his albums over the course of about two weeks. I just couldn’t stop! (Now five of them came together in an excellent “Classic Albums” pack so don’t think I went too crazy.) I honestly can’t recall how I heard about him but I bought one album and loved it: the interplay between him and his band and their propensity towards odd time signatures. When I found out there was a Dave Brubeck Christmas album, that had to be bought as well. This album is just him solo and there is a certain peace and calm that comes with that. This album is perfect for sitting in front of the Christmas tree with only the Christmas lights on.



Artist: Joy Electric

Album: The Magic of Christmas

I have never heard another band that sounds like Joy Electric. If there is 1. Tell me about them so I can buy all of their albums too and 2. I doubt the band you are mentioning played most of their shows opening for punk bands like Joy Electric did. (That’s another story… Explained in the documentary “The Joy Electric Picture Book.”)

This album is sweet. I was walking in Trader Joe’s the other day and remembering just how much freakin’ treats and candy they sell during this time of year. This album is, like, all of that sugar personified in song. But better. I love the version of “Winter Wonderland” and it’s also one of my favorite versions of “Frosty the Snowman” because this album really brings the thumpetity-thump-thump.



Artist: Tyler Larson

Album: The 8bit Hymnal 2 (Christmas)

This album is so fantastic. Larson did an amazing job programming these 8-bit songs. I love that he honored and kept the melody of the Christmas songs during all the choruses and verses but he slips in other melodies for the interludes. (Side note: Why do so many people insist on singing “Angels We Have Heard On High” and omitting the “Glo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ria” part? I’m not a fan of that trend.) This album is so fun. The kids love it because they think it’s a Super Mario Christmas album.

The best thing is… This album is free. Head over to this page on  NoiseTrade and for giving them your email and zip code, it’s yours to download.

Coming up… The top four!

All album cover images from The Cover Art Archive except Tyler Larson from Noise Trade and David Crowder from Amazon| Featured Image includes Ornament Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash and 45-Record-Adapter by Sean Russell on flickr

Top 12 Christmas Albums Part 2: Twelve Through Nine

I took my 64 Christmas albums and separated them into the two categories of “This might be in my top 12” and “Nah” and then ranked them all. Seventeen made the cut. I ranked those 17 and came up with my top twelve. The last post was the “almost made it” albums but…

Now we are into the top 12! Here are albums 12-9!



Artist: The Beach Boys

Album: Christmas With The Beach Boys

Most of the time my opinion is: The less original content you put onto your Christmas album the more I like it. But this album is one of the exceptions. There are so many great original songs on this album. It starts off with an incredible strong streak of originals, many of which have become classics.

Right from the top with “Little Saint Nick” the harmonies are, as expected, so catchy and tight. We put this album on last week and my wife started singing the “Bop”s during “The Man With All The Toys” and she said, “I was waiting for that!” You know it’s something special when even the background vocals are something you look forward to.

Even one of my least favorite tracks (“Christmas Day”) has a redemptive & groovy organ solo.



Artist: Family Force 5

Album: Christmas Pageant

This album has a great blending of newer production (read: autotune) and classic songs. It’s one of the albums that has something for the kids and the parents like it too.



Artist: Ultra Lounge (Various Artists)

Album: Christmas Cocktails

In the mid-nineties I picked up the album “Life” by the Cardigans. I had never heard songs like that before. It was touted as kind of a lounge-concept-album so I promptly went back to the record store and started buying “lounge” albums. When I saw there was a Christmas one, I had to go for it.

Track highlights for me include one of my favorite versions of “Winter Wonderland”, “Cha Cha all the Way” and the swinging version of “The Nutcracker Suite.” It feels like a hipper version of the classic Christmas tunes you hear during this time of year.



Artist: Elvis Presley

Album: Christmas Peace

This specific album makes it on the list riding two great benefits: Sentiment & Value.

This album is sentimental as the vinyl copy of Elvis’ Christmas album was always resting right below my grandmother’s turntable. So it always got played during Thanksgiving and Christmas thus cementing its connection with family and the holidays.

While my grandmother had “It’s Christmas Time” I’m picking this specific album because of the value. Now that my grandmother is in a home and the holidays have become decentralized from her residence I had to get my own copy and I ended up buying Christmas Peace because you get one disc with every Elvis Christmas song (the “Christmas” disc) and you get a second disc with all of his gospel tunes (the “Peace” disc). So you can listen to “Blue Christmas” when it’s the holidays and then “Amazing Grace” the rest of the year.

Coming up, albums #8-5.

All album cover images from The Cover Art Archive except Family Force 5 from Amazon| Featured Image includes Ornament Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash and 45-Record-Adapter by Sean Russell on flickr

Top 12 Christmas Albums Part 1: Honorable Mentions

Don’t tell anyone but I’ve already been listening to Christmas music for two weeks! I know the unspoken rule that Christmas stuff doesn’t happen until after Thanksgiving stuff but I don’t care: There’s so much good Christmas music out there, I need a head start.

And let’s be real… Target has had Christmas items for sale for months.

So, I decided to come up with my Top 12 Christmas albums. (12 felt like an appropriate sized and Christmasy number)

I own 64 Christmas albums and in the most scientific of methods I read the title of each album and sorted it into the following two categories:

  1. That one might be top 12 -and-
  2. Nah

I ended up with 17 albums on my contender list. I started ranking them and just cut it off at 12.

So, to kick things off, I thought I would give a little credit to the five that didn’t make the cut. I enjoy these but for whatever reason, they just aren’t top 12 worthy.



Artist: The Ventures

Album: The Ventures’ Christmas Album

This album is definitely fun. I appreciate the references to other songs like the smooth transition from “Walk Don’t Run” into “Sleigh Ride.” It’s a solid instrumental effort but I think, the biggest problem is I only picked it up last year and haven’t gotten to fully digest it. Maybe it’ll crack the top 12 next time.



Artist: Rend Collective

Album: Campfire Christmas (Vol. 1)

This album has a nice flow. It starts off mellow with “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” and then kicks it up with some really nice guitar work on “Hark! The Herald” No one in the family complains when this one is on. But… There were only 12 spots. (Bonus points though for a sweet album cover!)



Artist: Frank Sinatra

Album: A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra

This is a classic. I love the background singers making bell noises on Jingle Bells. Not sure what I can say except it’s probably heresy to not have this in the top 12 but… Oh well… There were only 12 spots. Put it on your own list if it bothers you so much.



Artist: Gary Hoey

Album: Ho Ho Hoey! The Complete Collection

What I love about this album is it’s mostly heavy, the guitar work is fantastic, it crosses multiple guitar-driven genres and there is a great mixture of keeping to the original melodies but blazing out a guitar solo. Some of the tracks have too much of a polished sheen and tone and there are some with vocals that I don’t enjoy. If it weren’t for that, this coulda been a contender. (Side note: Loss of major points with horrifying typography on the album cover.)



Artist: Brian Setzer

Album: Christmas Comes Alive & Christmas Rocks! The Best of Collection

Super fun. Both these albums feel super-Christmasy. But other than the spy version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (“Take A Break Guys”) no tracks come to mind when I think of these albums. (Notice how I just lumped both albums together? I know one is live and one isn’t but neither album even sticks out to me!)

Okay… Next time we will start into the top 12.

All album cover images from The Cover Art Archive | Featured Image includes Ornament Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash and 45-Record-Adapter by Sean Russell on flickr