I am tired, dear reader. Though it yielded many creative rewards, 2016 wiped me out and I need some rest. I am retiring from the blog a little early this year; though I usually stick it out until December, I am in desperate need of R and R.
However, I want to recommend two excellent holiday records before I hit the road. Both of these albums work as pleasing slices of celebratory fair, as well as legitimate pop art.
Leslie Odom Jr's Simply Christmas
Following up his breakthrough in the musical, Hamilton, and a standards record, Leslie Odom, Jr released his melancholy jazz-influence holiday album, Simply Christmas. He takes standards like "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "My Favorite Things," and "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and finds the somber textures in their familiar melodies. His rich voice perfectly weds this down-tempo approach, making the album a must-listen.
Kacey Musgrave's A Very Kacey Christmas
Kacey Muysgraves is the queen of country kitsch. Her fascination with vintage country sounds works to her advantage on A Very Kacey Christmas. Designed in the mold of a mid-century country holiday record, the album revels in camp and southwestern cowboy motifs. Musgraves skillfully manages novelty tunes like "Feliz Navidad," "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas," "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," and the new, "A Willie Nice Christmas," featuring none other than Willie Nelson. These light tracks balance sincerity and humor. However, the album gels because Kacey includes three love-lorn new tunes she co-wrote: "Christmas Always Makes Me Cry," "Present Without a Bow," and "Ribbons and Bows." These newer songs show the singer mixing her fascination with the past and her role as a country star in the present. They are sweet, melodic masterpieces.
Happy holidays, dear reader. Take care of yourself, and we'll meet back here in the new year.