It's Christmas week here at NRT!
A lot of new Christmas music dropped this year, as it does every year. With so many choices of remakes, original songs and crazy collaborations out there, four of our NRT contributors each sifted through the pile to pick their top two Christmas albums released this year. Here are their picks:
Happy Christmas Volume 5
by Various Artists
The longest running Christmas compilation returns for another bulb smashing, candy cane breaking, pine tree snapping edition. Featuring artists from the Tooth & Nail roster, including sister label imprints BEC Recordings and Solid State Records, Happy Christmas V5 features 14 songs newly amped up by rock artists Hawk Nelson, Demon Hunter, August Burns Red, FM Static and more. Highlights include "The Wind" by Demon Hunter, "Heat Miser" by Thousand Foot Krutch and "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" by Sent By Ravens. A great collection that turns up the holiday a few notches.
NRT Senior Content Editor Marcus Hathcock (marcustar)
Over The Hills And Everywhere
Available exclusively on iTunes and through the band's website, this Christmas EP features 7 Christmas songs completely reimagined by one of Christian music's most talented upcoming bands. Beyond the lyrics to "Angels We Have Heard On High," "What Child Is This?" and "Joy To The World," chances are you won't recognize much else about these songs. Of course, with the familiarity of Christmas music, that could be pretty disastrous, but Seabird manage to create a Christmas album that can easily be on rotation all year long. And that's one of the best musical gifts of the season.
Over the Hills and Everywhere
(Looks like Kevin and I agree on one!) I went into much greater detail on my review of this album, but essentially what makes this album great is that it forces us to actually pay attention to these songs. There's tremendous, jarring poetry hidden within many of the “classic” Christmas songs to which we've become accustomed, and Seabird's reimagining of the melodies and chord structures thrust the lyrics back into the spotlight. The words are familiar, the songs singable, but the experience is entirely new. Seabird didn't do this EP as a speedbump between their “real” albums; they reverently and artistically re-introduced us to an old friend. Standout songs include “Silent Night” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”
North Point Christmas
by Various Artists
The creatives at Atlanta's North Point Church have put together an incredible mix of classics retold and original Christmas songs. From the tender “Everything Changed” to the power-punching “He Has Come For Us” (which is “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” with a new, Gospel-declaring chorus), this album runs the gamut of the various emotions Christmas elicits. Different artists tackle each track, providing a mosaic of talent and musicality. If you're looking for a worshipful addition to your Christmas collection, North Point Christmas is a great place to start.
NRT Contributor Kevin Davis (kevindavis)
Advent Christmas Vol. 2
by Future of Forestry
Future of Forestry is one of the best-kept secrets of the Christian market. This EP features four classic Christmas songs, one original song, and one instrumental piece. Some stand-out tracks are amazing versions of "Joy to the World" and "Do You Hear What I Hear." Both songs start quietly but rise to incredible crescendos with ringing bells and Coldplay-like guitar riffs. Those have always been two of my favorite Christmas songs, and these are now my two favorite versions. I’ve loved the sound of this band for the past several years and this is by far my favorite Christmas album of all time. My recommendation is to pick up both Advent Christmas volumes and you can play these amazing Christmas songs over and over and really get into the true reflective and worshipful Christmas spirit.
Come Now Our King
by Various Artists
There are a lot of choices when it comes to Christmas music. This year more than ever, I felt a bit overwhelmed when I started to listen to various takes of classic Christmas songs like “Joy To The World,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and “Silent Night.” Thankfully, as much as I love those songs, they didn't appear on the excellent five song Christmas EP called Come Now Our King. Instead, five fresh, new, exciting artists all contributed to a very enjoyable new collection of songs. Vocally, these five artists, Chris August, Sidewalk Prophets, Meredith Andrews, BarlowGirl and Francesca Battistelli bring such passion and talent to these songs, I can't help but experience the true spirit of Christmas. I'll be listening to these five amazing songs consistently this holiday season. Come Now Our King prepares my heart and mind to celebrate and revere the birth of my King.
NRT Contributor Sarah Fine (sarahfreak)
Christmas! A Newsboys Holiday
by the Newsboys
After a whirlwind 2010, you’d think the last thing on the minds of the Newsboys would be to release a Christmas project… you’d think wrong. This 6-song EP has everything from a brilliant version of “Jingle Bells Rock” to an unlikely cover of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, yet somehow, it all comes together to make an album you can’t help but listen to over and over again. The fun factor is defiantly there with this album and that’s something that can’t be argued. I do hope that the band decides to expand this holiday EP into a full length Christmas album in the future --I know myself, and many others, would thank them for it.
by Beckah Shae
Beckah Shae has been on the Christian music scene now for a few years but her carrier really gained momentum this year when her album Life dropped over the summer. This year, Beckah re-released her Christmas album, Emmanuel, with a few new tracks and it has quickly grown to the top of my list as far as Christmas albums go. Many of the songs are brand new aside from a few classic Christmas renditions (including one of the best versions of ‘Do You Hear what I Hear” I’ve heard.) This is defiantly a must-have album for those who are looking for something fresh (and a bit funky) to enjoy over the Christmas season.
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