For two years now, I’ve been a bit obsessed with Cee-Lo’s Christmas album. No, I don’t listen to it before Thanksgiving or after Christmas (who do you think I am?), but for the holiday season, Cee-Lo’s Magic Moment is extremely satisfying. It’s a fairly predictable runthrough of holiday standards. You have “White Christmas” and “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “All I Want for Christmas,” amid another dozen classics. But with new Christmas albums, you really should look for three things, unoriginality aside: commitment (almost every Christmas album is a money-grab, but it’s nice when the artist at least pretends it isn’t), and the more amorphous qualities of “appropriate vocals” and a real rendering of mood. Bing Crosby? He has the voice for Christmas songs. Mariah Carey? Of course. Tom Waits? Probably not. Cee-Lo has the vocals for a Christmas album too, and that’s part of the reason the album succeeds. Furthermore he sets the sort of cheesy, classic mood that a Christmas album requires. It’s familiar, predictable, and not very experimental. That’s just part of the charm. You don’t come to a Christmas album looking for Kid A.
Big Tree’s contribution to the crowded field of Christmas music is December, a quick ten-minute EP mixing originals with covers. The album is extremely spare, giving it a very homey, meditative vibe. The opener, “You Are My,” is an indie folk song masquerading as a Christmas song. Think Ingrid Michaelson or a less poppy Sara Bareilles. Ultimately, the album is successful in taking the indie folk sensibility and adjusting it to the holidays. It makes for a satisfying, if unexciting, set of songs. Capped off by a simple arrangement of “Silent Night,” this EP ultimately makes for an enjoyable, inoffensive soundtrack to your next holiday party. Just don’t expect to want to listen it after the 25th.