Holiday albums tend to be like overstuffed stockings: What’s in there could either be something you’ll treasure for years to come — or want to regift almost immediately.
Santa’s pack is full of them this year, including offerings from pop rock’s perennial sailor Jimmy Buffett, Nashville’s Chris Young and Kacey Musgraves, as well as 16-year-old opera prodigy Jackie Evancho of “America’s Got Talent” fame (just chosen to perform at Donald Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20).
Here’s a closer look at seven more — perfect for singing along, egg nog toasting, or as cheery background on gift-wrapping day.
Loretta Lynn: ‘White Christmas Blue’
The Coal Miner’s Daughter hasn’t put out a collection of seasonal songs since 1966’s Country Christmas. But with its retro jacket, honky tonk arrangements, and old-school instrumentation, you’ll swear this album’s 12 new studio recordings (made at the Cash Cabin Studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee) have been stashed somewhere for 50 years. Lynn puts the right amount of twang to the title song (which she wrote with Shawn Camp), and dusts off traditional carols and pop standards (“Away in a Manger,” “White Christmas”) before wrapping up with a down-home recitation of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
Pentatonix: ‘A Pentatonix Christmas’
For their third holiday album, the indefinable Pentatonix offer a mixed bag of seasonal classics and modern favorites (“I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Hallelujah”), as well as two original songs, “The Christmas Sing-Along” and “Good to Be Bad.” The a cappella group’s magic lies not only in their remarkably tight voices and vocal percussion/beatboxing, but also in their starkly creative arrangements. As usual, they do not disappoint.
Jordan Smith: ‘Tis the Season’
Smith, a master of modulation who captivated viewers of Season 9 of “The Voice,” delights with his well-wrought renditions of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” “What Child is This,” and even “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” One disappointment: The exquisite “Mary, Did You Know,” his pick for the final competition show, is nowhere to be found, though it had originally reached the top of the iTunes list.
Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood: ‘Christmas Together’
Country’s huggiest real-life couple appear to have a blast romping through such holiday-themed bonbons as “Ugly Christmas Sweater,” “Santa Baby,” and “Marshmallow World,” even if some may find these treats a little too sugary. Yearwood nonetheless brings a sensitive reading to Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas,” and James Taylor adds mellow guest vocals on “What I’m Thankful For (The Thanksgiving Song).”
Sarah McLachlan: ‘Wonderland’
A bookend to “Wintersong,” McLachlan’s moody, acclaimed 2006 album, “Wonderland” dispenses with the melancholy of the former album, highlighting instead a lighter group of festive songs (“Let it Snow,” “Silver Bells”) as well as time-honored carols. While the Canadian hymn “Huron Carol” serves as the album’s highlight, the album as a whole seems less thoughtful and a tad cobbled together, as if it were made up of leftover tracks from “Wintersong.” All the same, McLachlan’s ethereal soprano, laid over open, gauzy arrangements, warms like a cozy log fire.
Neil Diamond: ‘Acoustic Christmas’
Reuniting with producers Jacknife Lee and Don Was, who helped birth his 2014 release “Melody Road,” legendary singer/songwriter Diamond shines on this low-key offering of folk and gospel-flavored classics, bolstered with the original tune, “Christmas Prayers.” Lee compares Diamond’s voice to hot chocolate, which in this case means that the collection might hit some as too laid-back. Others will find it refreshingly intimate, without the artificial hoopla that mars so many celebrations of December.
Jennifer Nettles: ‘To Celebrate Christmas’
The big-voiced Nettles brings infectious energy to everything she does, from country to Broadway, and this is no exception. Part of what makes “To Celebrate Christmas” a stand-out is her willingness to reach a bit beyond the standard Christmas fare, reprising Kenny Loggins’ “Celebrate Me Home,” for example, and covering Irving Berlin’s “Count Your Blessings Instead Of Sheep.” Don’t miss her rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (with Andra Day), which she reframes as a snaky blues tune.