Three New Bearable Christmas Albums

Sufjan Stevens – Photo by Denny Renshaw

Just as radio stations and retailers are to starting blare the songs of Bing and Biebs, there are three new Christmas albums worth a listen.

Sufjan Stevens – Silver & Gold (Amazon MP3 & Spotify)– Six years after releasing Songs for Christmas, arguably the best Christmas album of the millennium’s first decade, Sufjan this week released Silver & Gold, a new five-disc EP of Christmas covers and original holiday tunes. Like Stevens’ other albums, this collection is hard to categorize and takes many turns, with a few of silly childlike numbers we’ve come to expect from Sufjan, a few a capella tracks, some nice instrumentals (classical and auto-tuned) and even a few Sacred Harp/Fasola songs. Silver & Gold, like Songs for Christmas, features many traditional songs of Stevens’ Christian faith. As outlined in a brilliant story by Chris DeVille at Stereogum on Friday, the album contrasts Santa Christmas and Jesus Christmas.

Various Artists – Holidays Rule (Amazon MP3 & Spotify) – The Civil Wars, Punch Brothers, Andrew Bird, Black Prairie, Calexico, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The Head and the Heart, Sharon Van Etten and Fruit Bats are among our favorite artists featured on an all-new 17-track compilation that runs the gamut of Americana, alt-pop, folk, electronica, country, American standards, singer-songwriter, New Orleans gospel, garage rock and more. Holidays Rule was co-produced by the Decemberists’ Chris Funk and released by Starbucks’ Hear Music (as well as Concord). Every song on this album is impressive. Of note: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” by The Punch Brothers and Calexico’s “Green Grows the Holly.”

Willie Nelson – Christmas with Willie Nelson (Amazon MP3 & Spotify) – Doesn’t it seem like there’s constantly a new Willie Nelson Christmas album coming out? It’s because there is and because they probably sell faster than jello shots in Panama City. Willie’s “new album,” released in September, isn’t wildly different than the others. It’s all pretty classic, which is just fine. This is a good soundtrack for Christmas morning with the whole fam.