Christmas may come but one time each year, but its musical counterparts get to hang out for the better part of winter. Every November, it seems we’re forced to choke down another set of overwrought, speedily produced holiday tunes from Mariah Carey, or Taylor Swift, or the cast of Glee, and thus fall further and further out of love with all things holiday music—which is why we’ve cast aside our inner Scrooges and dug through the stacks to find three festive offerings that we not only like but also wouldn’t mind listening to beyond the holiday season. So whether you’re last-minute shopping or simply looking for a way to bump up the holiday cheer, we encourage you to read on and pick up any (or all) of the following.
1) Béla Fleck & The Flecktones’ Jingle All the Way: Get past the do-nothing title, and this Christmas record will likely become an instant favorite. Béla Fleck has assembled an extended version of the Flecktones that includes Andy Statman, Edgar Meyer, and Tuvan throat-singers Alash Ensemble for this adventurous, jazz-tinged outing. There isn’t a bad or even an average cut, and the really outstanding ones—like a version of “Silent Night” that achieves a Miles Davis level of cool, a Django Reinhardt-meets-bebop take on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” or the funkiest jam on Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy” ever—skip right past the “stop, holidays-only” sign, and sail on into anytime-listening land.
2) The Boy Least Likely To’s Christmas Special: As far as smart ideas go, The Boy Least Likely To’s Christmas outing takes the cake. Here, the über-cutesy British twee duo snag a string section and pen a full album’s worth of original material. (Yes, original material.) Most of it (“Little Donkey,” “The First Snowflake”) is pure saccharine sweetness, delivered with the wide-eyed, childlike orchestration and vocal deliveries we’ve come to cherish from the band. And while a few efforts fall flat (“A Happy Christmas Baby,” we’re looking at you), the majority of this Special expertly bridges the gap between kid-friendly and quirky cool.
3) Kanye West’s “Christmas in Harlem”: Sure, sure, it’s only a track and not a full album, but Kanye’s “Christmas in Harlem” is free, and a must-have addition to any holiday party mix. Recorded alongside requisite lady voice Teyana Taylor and rapper CyHi Da Prynce, Kanye’s seasonal drop is equipped with the same super sleek production values and vintage beats as his recent, much-lauded full-length, meaning five full minutes of super stylized contemporary Christmas nostalgia.