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advent and christmas music recommendations

December 15, 2011
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There is A LOT of Christmas music these days. Yes, much (maybe most) of this music is overly cheesy and sentimental; or just straight-up bad. I’m not against sentiment and I have plenty of guilty pleasures, but I think everyone can agree that Christmas music in general tends to overdo it… At best, many albums are marketing ploys for record labels to make more money off of songs that have already been written. No offense to the next big pop star and the next holiday “hit”, but there is actually some really good stuff out there. And thanks in large part to the internet, we have more good things to choose from every year. It seems that the best music contains lyrical content that is rich with allusions to both the longing of advent and the raw and mysterious story of Christ’s birth. Go figure! There are exceptions and  plenty of room for great songs that focus on the warmth of family and friends in this special season, but it seems that when over-sentimentality is not the focus, great art is made. So below are some listening recommendations that I’ve put together for this season of longing, hope, and celebration. Clearly, “good” and “bad” music is based on opinion, but I hope to at least expose you to some great music to listen to this season. I always HIGHLY recommend ‘Songs For Christmas’ by Sufjan Stevens and ‘Salvation Is Created’ by Bifrost Arts if you don’t already have them, but I’ve only highlighted music that’s come out this year below.

Hymns From Nineveh – ‘Endurance In Christmas Time  |  A great collection of mostly original tunes and hymns based on advent and the season of Christmas.

“Endurance In Christmas Time”

Castle Island Hymns‘Christmas’  |  Original songs and new arrangements of old hymns from Citylife Presbyterian Church in Boston.



Forest Mountain Hymnal – ‘Christmas Hymnal’  |  Beautiful Appalachian folk arrangements of some great Christmas hymns.



Sam Billen (and various artists)‘A Light Goes On’  |  A wonderful compilation that Sam Billen put together with many of his musician friends. Each musician was also paired with an artist who created the cover art for each song.

“A Light Went On”


Sandra McCracken‘Lo-Fi Christmas EP’  |  It’s just that… 3 beautiful Christmas hymns recorded on Garage Band with acoustic guitar and voice.

“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”


* Thanks to Ryan Phelps and Bruce Benedict (Cardiphonia) for exposing me to a couple of these…

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 19, 2011 9:34 am

    Jess, I can’t believe I hadn’t heard this HFN stuff before. Holy **** (literally!). Thank you. Can’t wait to get out the Wayfare EP and join this movement (kind of).

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