BY Eric Rezsnyak
I love Christmas music. Every year I listen to as much as I can, hoping to add new songs to my personal Christmas music canon.
For 2023, I listened to nearly 40 – 40! – full-length holiday albums and/or EPs. I regret to inform you that it was not a particularly inspiring group. But still, there were a few gems. Below find my personal Top 10 full-length holiday albums released in 2023. Read further for some additional holiday EPs worth checking out.
10. My Morning Jacket “Happy Holiday!”
It’s ironic that My Morning Jacket’s Christmas album is explicitly titled “Happy Holiday!” because my god, this is depressing. I was in the middle of listening to it when my partner got out of the shower, came into the living room, and begged me to turn it off because it was literally bumming him out. That’s a true story. If you’re having a rough year and need a soundtrack for your tears, this is for you. If you’re really into sad Christmas music, this is for you. If you are a holiday masochist and need to marinate in the misery of others, this is for you. If you’re looking for something peppy and/or cheerful, look elsewhere.
9. Matt Rogers “Have You Heard of Christmas?”
Finally, an answer to the question, “What should we listen to while coming down from our Christmas Day gay orgy?” Matt Rogers, one half of the duo behind Las Culturistas, gives us an unabashedly 2020s homosexual paean to Christmas in wholly original songs. There is absolutely zero subtlety; there are no double entendres; there are not even single entendres. The second track is called “Lube for the Sleigh,” a jaunty disco-flared number that is about exactly what you would expect. Then there’s an r’n’b banger called “Hottest Female Up in Whoville” in which he is a girl Who who is fucking married men. It goes on like this. Rogers can sing, and I give him so much credit for having a vision and committing fully to it. He even got guests like MUNA (MUNA!!!), Leland, VINCINT, and his buddy Bowen Yang. But honey it is a LOT. It’s…yeah, it’s a lot.
8. The Tenors “Christmas With the Tenors”
Canadian quartet The Tenors give us a holiday album that should scratch your Pentatonix itch. High on vocal precision, low on relatable emotion. It is largely peppy, with a focus on interpretations of Christmas classics. Solid cookie-baking music (not a euphemism, please do not have sex to this album). The inclusion of a cover of Enya’s “Only Time” feels wildly out of place and takes me out of this collection every time I return to it.
7. Johnny Mathis “Christmas Time Is Here”
On the completely other end of the spectrum from Matt Rogers, we have Johnny Mathis, 88 years young, giving us a traditional holiday album sure to please your nana. Johnny still sounds great, the songs are almost all classics. Kristen Chenoweth stops by for a duet on “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town.” Your kids will likely completely zone out, but if you want to put something to distract your parents while you sneak off with your siblings and talk about how miserable you are, this is your best bet this year.
6. Gregory Porter “Christmas Wish”
If you’re looking for a jazzy Christmas, this is your best option of the year. Porter gives us a mix of Christmas classics and some new songs, all delivered pleasantly. This is a good downtempo option for a holiday party.
5. Katharine McPhee & David Foster “Christmas Songs”
Katharine McPhee is a polarizing figure, and her marriage to music producer David Foster — 30+ year her senior — even more polarizing. But putting all that aside, McPhee is a beautiful singer, and for the most part this holiday album (her second — I still listen to her original one from 2010) is enjoyable and appropriately warm and festive. Foster’s arrangement on some tracks, especially “We Three Kings,” can be overwhelming.
4. Seth McFarlane & Liz Gillies “We Wish You the Merriest”
I loved this album. Seth “Family Guy” McFarlane and Liz Gillies — who was outstanding as Fallon on the CW’s recently wrapped “Dynasty” reboot — serve up a platter of mostly classic holiday songs, delivered with 60s crooner cool and bursts of big-band action. This should have cross-generational appeal — although some of the banter between the duo might turn off some more traditional listeners — and the whole album sounds great. A lovely surprise for the holidays.
3. Tyler Shaw “A Tyler Shaw Christmas”
Speaking of surprises, I had never heard of Canadian pop star Tyler Shaw, but I was impressed by his new holiday album. This is a sweet, low-key Christmas album with catchy and different-enough spins on classics, plus a few new songs. There’s a terrific rendition of “O Holy Night” featuring the previously mentioned The Tenors.
2. Brandy “Christmas with Brandy”
Have some Brandy with your eggnog this year, as the 90s r’n’b superstar returns with a solid Christmas album that strikes a great balance of new songs and familiar holiday favorites. A chill vibe for any holiday party that will get people bopping around the Christmas tree.
1. Cher “Christmas”
Am I leaning into stereotypes? Absolutely. But after repeated listens, Cher truly does have the best new holiday album of 2023. A great mix of modern holiday classics like “Santa Baby,” “What Christmas Means to Me” (featuring original artist Stevie Wonder), “Christmas, Baby Please Come Home” (featuring original artist Darlene Love, whose version Cher originally sang back-up on in the 1960s), and “Please Come Home for Christmas,” plus some great new songs, including the incredibly Cher-ified “DJ Play a Christmas Song,” “Angels in the Snow,” and “Put a Little Holiday in Your Heart,” a duet with Cyndi Lauper.
2023 Holiday EPs Worth Checking Out
Alanis Morissette “Last Christmas”
Alanis gives us distinctly Alanis takes on four Christmas songs. I think of it as a good start. Give us a full album, Alanis!
Samara Joy “A Joyful Holiday”
Jazz chanteuse Samara Joy gives us a downtempo, super chill six-track holiday EP.
Gavin DeGraw “A Classic Christmas”
Rocker DeGraw serves up a respectful, largely straight cover album of holiday classics but with more modern sounds.
Maddie & Tae “We Need Christmas”
Jangly country pop covers, and two originals. Good upbeat selections for a holiday party.
Forest Blakk “Wake Up! It’s Christmas”
Sweet singer-songwriter/alt-pop, all originals, catchy but not aggressively saccharine.