Five Festive Albums to Listen to After Christmas

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Like it or not, listening to Christmas music after the start of the new year is a taboo. Your friends judge you for it, and some even believe it’ll bring bad luck. I’m no superstitious man, but I too believe Christmas songs should be left for December; it’s a sacrifice that must be made to preserve their nostalgic effect.

So, here’s my solution: albums that are lyrically a-seasonal but sonically more Christmassy than a carolling mince pie. They’re sure to satiate any festive cravings you may have.

Frank Sinatra – Songs for Swingin’ Lovers! (1956)

It’s what it says on the tin – swingin’, big band jazz that makes you feel like you’re walking the red and green illuminated streets of New York at Christmastime. You can almost hear Buddy the Elf in the background if you listen closely enough. 

Perhaps the quintessential rendition of the Great American Songbook, it’s a thickly arranged, seamless series of performances. Each song is unashamedly grand and joyous, liable to erupt at any given moment into an instrumental solo or brass crescendo. The melodies are whimsical and cheeky, and the lyrics sicklier than a second helping of Christmas pudding. Subtlety is nowhere to be found, but this is exactly how it should be. It’s a celebration of life and love, and Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back is the event planner.

Songs for Swingin’ Lovers turns you into a child on Christmas morning again… it just makes you feel so young

Louis Armstrong – Louis and the Angels (1957)

Let Satchmo serenade you with a heavenly tracklist that fills the soul with a sense of cosiness. A concept album both lyrically and sonically, this project explores the pursuit and adoration of a perfect ‘angel’. It is unabashedly romantic and brimming with that cute innocence you might associate with your grandparents.

Bright strings and airy backing vocals as delicate as a winter’s wind outline each track on the record. They’re perfectly juxtaposed against Armstrong’s iconic thick, crunchy lead vocals and melodic trumpet work. Flutes add to that classic Disney-esque quaintness and the plodding double bass brings a peaceful sense of post-Christmas dinner lethargy to the whole record. Compositionally, the album feels like an extended conversation; each instrument is given plenty of time and space to shine. Louis and the Angels is a tastefully orchestrated, perfectly adorable album.

The Ronettes – Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica (1964)

Most of us know The Ronettes from A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector – a classic album released just a year before this one, and masterminded by the same producer. The similarities between these two records are countless and unmissable. Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes’ opener, ‘Walking In The Rain’ begins with a clap of thunder, a steady tambourine and those classic Ronettes backing vocals. It’s a shot of dopamine injected straight in through the eardrums.

The album is brimming with festive instrumental decisions: violins, clackers, sleigh bells, harps, xylophones and horns, to name but a few. There are ‘baby’s and ‘woahohoh’s and ‘doodoodoo’s galore and the lead vocals are sharp, sweet and sensitive. If Christmas has a voice, it may well just be that of Ronnie Spector. Oh, and to top it off, it all sounds deliciously retro and grainy. 

Joni Mitchell – Blue (1971)

The festive atmosphere which Blue exudes comes not from luscious arrangements of strings, horns or layered vocals – but quite the opposite. It’s the sense of intimacy evoked by the sparse, folky instrumentation and intensely personal lyrical themes that make the album feel like seeing your family for the first time in months at Christmas. 

Mitchell’s chord progressions and use of harmony also feel naturally Christmassy; there’s a warmth, a homeliness to them. Her storytelling and soaring melodies equally feel festive; her honesty and unconventional vocal style make it feel as though she’s a friend singing directly to you. 

‘River’ is the only song on the album which is an actual Christmas song – using piano motifs from ‘Jingle Bells’ and with lyrics mourning the absence of an ex-lover at Christmas. This same festive atmosphere, though, is present in every song on the album. Blue proves that guitars (and zithers) can be as Christmassy as pianos.

Jacob Collier – Piano Ballads – Live From The Djesse World Tour 2022 (2022)

Jacob Collier’s live album captures the magic of Christmas perfectly. It’s 1 hour, 39 minutes of improvisational piano/vocal covers of classic songs – each one extended, often to over 10 minutes in length. Collier’s piano work is nothing short of breathtaking, likely to inspire a musician but more likely to convince one there’s no point in even bothering to replicate it. He takes us on a harmonic journey, teasing us with resolution then finally bringing us home. When he plays, the piano sparkles like stars on a dark winter night; when he sings, it’s like warming your frozen hands by a fireplace. Collier’s voice soars high and sinks to depths below the ocean, his range astonishing.

The tracklist includes cuts from the Bee Gees, ABBA, Elvis, Queen and the Beatles, each one made wholly Collier-esque. Throughout the project, Collier’s ‘Audience Choirs’ provide a stunning harmonic backdrop, flowing in and out of the soundscape like waves on a heavenly ocean. Live From The Djesse World Tour is intricately crafted, immersive and generally awe-inspiring.

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