Sufjan Stevens – Silver & Gold (Asthmatic Kitty)
The second box-set of holiday music from Stevens contains five CDs of music, a poster, stickers and artwork all housed in an ornate gift box. This heartfelt, whimsical take on a wide range of styles from many eras, along with glorious originals, is the best Christmas release of the season and like his first Christmas music box set is a treasure for the ages.
Tracey Thorn – Tinsel and Light (Merge)
One half of the duo Everything But the Girl applies her lovely voice to originals, vintage holiday classics and newer Christmas songs. Aside from Stevens’s massive set, this is the best holiday music release of 2012.
The Polyphonic Spree – Holiday Season: Sounds of the Season Vol. One (Heartland)
The indescribable sound of The Polyphonic Spree, a cross between the Hillside Singers, Love and Donovan produced Marjoe Gortner has created the trippiest Christmas CD of this or any year.
Various artists – Holidays Rule (Hear Music)
This is one of the better compilation holiday releases of the year and includes such artists as Calexico, the Punch Brothers, the Civil Wars, The Shins, Rufus Wainwright, Andrew Bird, Irma Thomas and Paul McCartney.
Colbie Caillat – Christmas in the Sand (Universal Republic)
Caillat imbues these holiday chestnuts with her warm, ebullient and sunny take on pop with joyous results.
Rod Stewart – Merry Christmas, Baby (Verve)
Rod Stewart has made a slick, modern holiday release with jazzy overtones, masterfully produced by Verve Chairman David Foster.
Rita Coolidge – A Rita Coolidge Christmas (429)
Rita Coolidge also brings a jazzy feel to holiday favorites, but in a very stripped- down, standards style.
Lady Antebellum – On This Winter’s Night (Capitol)
For a harmony-filled country take on holiday favorites, this may be the best of that genre from 2012.
Emily Hurd – Any Given Day (Breakthrough Audio)
On her first seasonal album, Hurd offers a sultry and soulful feel on music that will sound great long past December 25th.
SpongeBob Squarepants – It’s a SpongeBob Christmas Album! (Nickelodeon)
This amusing and quirky holiday album from an animated cartoon character is more fun than a bowl-ful of jelly, or a galley full of crabby patties.
The Chipmunks – Chipmunks Christmas (Capitol)
The Chipmunks remain one of the most beloved animated children’s groups of all time and any new music from these squeaky cut-ups is always welcome.
Original Broadway Cast Recording – A Christmas Story (Masterworks Broadway)
This recording of songs from the stage musical is filled with all the nostalgia and mischief of the original classic movie.
Christmas Television Special
For a great holiday DVD, check out Christmas with Danny Kaye (Inception), two television episodes from 1966, featuring Peggy Lee and Nat King Cole.
Music of Christmas Past
For holiday music reissues, seek out the two-CD box-set ‘Twas The Night Before Hanukkah (The Idelsohn Society) featuring various artists, James Taylor at Christmas (Universal) from James Taylor and The Edie Adams Christmas Album (Omnivore). From Legacy don’t miss Death Might Be You Santa Claus from various artists and The Classic Christmas Album series, featuring such artists as Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley, Luther Vandross and John Denver.