Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood, “Christmas Together” (Pearl)
There’s a healthy dose of Texas swing in the country power couple’s first holiday album, but as you’d expect, these genre-crossing artists also veer far and wide — into classic pop (“Baby It’s Cold Outside”), Broadway country (“Hard Candy Christmas” from “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”) and gringo mariachi (“Feliz Navidad”). Yearwood purrs persuasively in “Santa Baby,” and Brooks brings the requisite light touch to the utterly forgettable novelty “Ugly Christmas Sweater.”
Jon Batiste, “Christmas With Jon Batiste” (Amazon)
The Louisiana singer-keyboardist and bandleader for “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” lets his jazz chops loose with aplomb, alternating impeccable instrumentals with a varied group of singers. His guests include Aloe Blacc and Judith Hill, vocal group Infinity Song, drummer Jason Marsalis, guitarist Eric Gales, trumpeter Sean Jones and violinist Lee England Jr. The spirit is strong on this one.
Sarah McLachlan, “Wonderland” (Verve)
The signs for emotionally reassuring empathy are all in place. There’s the signature catch in her voice as the Canadian singer-songwriter leaps across vocal registers, as well as atmospheric and expansive sonic production work. She’s joined by Emmylou Harris and Martha Wainwright on her harmony-rich rendition of “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” and the orchestral arrangement with “Let it Snow” tips the hat to Phil Spector’s classic Christmas album. Yet perhaps most compelling is the rarely performed “Huron Carol.”
Kacey Musgraves, “A Very Kacey Christmas” (Mercury)
The upstart singer-songwriter brings plenty of the same feisty outsider sensibility that’s made her first two albums so refreshing. She co-wrote four of the songs here, and she gets assists from Willie Nelson, Leon Bridges and the Quebe Sisters as well.
Loretta Lynn, “White Christmas Blue” (Legacy)
Lynn is 84 but retains a girlish sparkle in her voice and the songs she’s written to complement the spiritual and secular classics she takes on. The title track shows there’s life yet left in the spin on the colors of Christmas, while “Country Christmas” homes in on the homespun humility that’s been her signature for more than half a century.
She & Him, “Christmas Party” (Columbia)
Singer Zooey Deschanel and guitarist M. Ward seem perfectly in sync with whatever it is that makes the holiday season so uniquely joyful. On their second seasonal album, they channel vintage holiday classics such as “Mele Kalikimaka” and “Happy Holiday” as well as pop aficionado choices including Vashti Bunyon’s “The Coldest Night of the Year” and Marilyn and Alan Bergman’s “Christmas Memories.” Sincere romanticism is balanced with a knowing sense of humor.
RANDY LEWIS, Los Angeles Times
• Kid Cudi, “Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ ”
• Little Simz, “Stillness in Wonderland”
• The Lox, “Filthy America…It’s Beautiful”