Hark! Your 2013 Holiday-Album Roundup

Happy Halloween, everyone. Who's ready for Christmas?

Must be quite a few of you, because the music biz rolled out many of its major 2013 holiday LPs this week. Those that don't arrive next week, that is, or else got a head start like Mary J. Blige. Her A Mary Christmas arrived two weeks ago and now sits at No. 1 on Billboard's Holiday Albums chart for its foresight. (Yes, there is one of those.)

Rocks Off will freely admit we have a weakness for holiday music. It's perfectly reasonable to argue that the world does not even one more version of "Silent Night" or "Winter Wonderland," and that anyone who makes another one is just lining his or her pockets with peace on earth and goodwill to men. On the other hand, the most cynical grinch among us can get choked up upon hearing even a halfway decent "O Come All Ye Faithful," and who among us doesn't pause to bellow "FIVE GOLD RINGS" (hopefully just to ourselves) whenever "12 Days of Christmas" comes on at the supermarket?

In fact, we'd argue that half the fun of holiday music is what a mixed bag of surprising quality and utter crap that each round of seasonal music turns out to be. Allow us to pick through this year's ornaments for a few moments, won't you?

Bad Religion Christmas Songs (Epitaph)

Release Date: This Tuesday New Seasonal "Standards": "American Jesus" (we guess that counts) Most Outrageous Press-Release Claim: "In a world still brimming with rampant anti-intellectualism, inequality and oppression, Bad Religion's signature brand of sonically charged humanist dissent is as relevant as ever and this Christmas season, just a little more ironic." Stream the entire album here. The Spirit of Giving: Band is donating 20 percent of the proceeds to SNAP, or Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Bright Eyes A Christmas Album (Saddle Creek)

Release Date: November 5 New Seasonal "Standards": "Blue Christmas," feat. Azure Ray's Maria Taylor Most Outrageous Press-Release Claim: "Check out the album The New York Times called 'the saddest, sweetest holiday recording you'll hear all season.'" The Spirit of Giving: Originally released as an online exclusive in 2002, with proceeds going to the Nebraska AIDS Project.

Mary J. Blige A Mary Christmas (Verve)

Release Date: October 15 New Seasonal "Standards": "This Christmas" Most Over-the-Top Press-Release Claim: "Spreading holiday cheer all around, the Mary J. Blige "A Mary Christmas" 'ZinePak will include in addition to her 12-track CD, some lovely holiday gift items such a 64-page magazine featuring exclusive interviews with Mary, family photos, Mary's favorite holiday memories, Christmas recipes and custom gift-tag stickers." The Spirit of Giving: ZinePak version available exclusively at Walmart stores and walmart.com, while supplies last.

List continues on the next page.

Kelly Clarkson Wrapped In Red (RCA)

Release Date: This Tuesday New Seasonal "Standards": "Wrapped In Red," "Underneath the Tree," "4 Carats," "Brandon's Song" (for new hubby/Reba stepson Brandon Blackstock) Most Outrageous Press-Release Claim: "Together, Kelly and Greg [co-producer Kurstin] bring a fresh, contemporary sound to this new holiday music, ensuring the songs are big hits and evergreen holiday favorites." The Spirit of Giving: Clarkson taped her first Christmas TV special, which will air later this year on NBC, last night in Las Vegas.

Kool & the Gang Kool For the Holidays (ATO)

Release Date: November 5 New Seasonal "Standards": "Christmas Tyme (the Perfect Time For Love)," "I Love the Holidays" Most Outrageous Press-Release Claim: "As the title implies, Kool For the Holidays isn't your run-of-the-mill holiday album." The Spirit of Giving: Next year Kool & the Gang will be 50 years old!

Mindy Smith Snowed In EP (Giant Leap/TVX)

Release Date: Tuesday New Seasonal "Standards": "Snowed In," "Tomorrow Is Christmas Day" Most Outrageous Press-Release Claim: "'The holidays give us an excuse to go overboard spoiling our spouses, children and friends, and often times we find ourselves paying down the debt of the season the entire new year," comments Smith. "In truth, we are all searching for ONE very powerful gift.'" (Peace and quiet, we assume... or is that two gifts?) The Spirit of Giving: The underrated Americana singer-songwriter's second holiday release after 2007's My Holiday. Not bad at all.

Straight No Chaser Under the Influence: Holiday Edition EP (Atlantic)

Release Date: Tuesday New Seasonal "Standards": "Every Day Is Christmas (feat Colbie Callait)" Most Outrageous Press-Release Claim: "Under the Influence sees Straight No Chaser bringing their indelible style -- and a number of legendary artists -- to an all-new cache of Christmas classics [including] 'Wonderful Christmastime (feat. Paul McCartney),' 'White Christmas (feat. Cee-Lo Green)' and 'Merry Christmas Baby (feat. Otis Redding)." Redding, remember, died in 1967. McCartney "died" the next year. The Spirit of Giving: The boyishly handsome a cappella group performs Friday at Bayou Music Center.


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