Guest / Limited Access /

Like CCM, Christmas music is defined by its lyrical content, not its music (though sleigh bells, chimes, and children's choruses seem to be in every Christmas album from reggae to bluegrass). So,  like CCM, it has spun off dozens of subgenres.

On one end of the spectrum are "seasonal" albums that make no reference to the birthday boy. That's expected from avant-garde jazz musician John Zorn's A Dreamers Christmas [3 stars] since he usually makes "radical Jewish music." It's unsurprising on A Very She & Him Christmas [3 stars], a collection of standards from the M. Ward/Zooey Deschanel act that plays its '60s nostalgia pretty straight. Jack Johnson's indie compilation This Warm December Vol. 2 is has many strong original pieces [3 stars], but doesn't have the nods to transcendence that 2008's Vol. 1 had.

On the other end of the spectrum, by my count, worship albums outnumbered every other Christmas subgenre in 2011. Is it a reflection of the boom in worship music or an accurate reflection of how much of the Christmas story is worship (angels, shepherds, magi)? Many of these albums are simply carols played live, as it the case with Christmas from the Vineyard [2 stars] or, remarkably, half of David Crowder Band's Oh for Joy [3 stars] the band's least creative effort to date (though, being Crowder, it's still very good).

From the Belly of a Woman [4 stars], from the Seattle postrock/ambient group The Opiate Mass, is a live worship recording, too, but unlike any other Christmas album except 2009's "Salvation Is Created" from Bifrost Arts. It's not festive. This is not an album you'd put on in the background while hanging ornaments; it focuses attention on the mystery of the Incarnation.

Bifrost Arts' "Joy Joy" makes an appearance ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current IssuePutting Pastors to Pasture in Nigeria
Subscriber Access Only
Putting Pastors to Pasture in Nigeria
Churches protest law requiring ministry leaders to resign after age 70 or 20 years.
Current Issue‘Grace Alone’: Luther Nails It
Subscriber Access Only
‘Grace Alone’: Luther Nails It
A Protestant responds to Catholic critiques of ‘Grace Alone.’
Current IssueThe Church’s Three-Part Harmony
Subscriber Access Only
The Church’s Three-Part Harmony
Why evangelical, sacramental, and Pentecostal Christians belong together in one body.
TrendingThe Real St. Patrick
The Real St. Patrick
A look at the famous saint, and his strategic missions.
Editor's PickMoral Relativism Is Dead
Moral Relativism Is Dead
Why outrage culture is good news for the gospel.
Christianity Today
The Best Christmas Music of 2011
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

December 2011

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.