My personal favorite discovery this year was Found Wandering, through their 2015 release "On a Christmas Night", their earlier album "Christmas in Country Village", and their brand new EP this season "Pass the Peace". This is as good as Christmas music gets, and now that the season is waning, I need to check out their other albums.
Elizabeth Chan - "Five Golden Rings"
Elizabeth Chan ventured into new territory this year by including her versions of Christmas standards on "Five Golden Rings", her 2016 release. Her creativity and love for everything Christmas comes through clearly as she gave us an album of standards, original songs, and Spanish and Chinese performances! She keeps getting better and better, and I'm anxious to see what she brings in 2017.
Jordan Smith - "Tis the Season"
Jordan Smith was the gate-to-gate winner of season 9 of The Voice, and released a full Christmas album this year. Before the album was in my hands, I wondered about the song selections, especially the exclusion of "Mary Did You Know?", which he had performed on The Voice. Once I got the CD, though, I realized that song selection may never be an issue for Jordan. He works magic with every song he sings, and is flawless. I look forward to another Christmas album in the future from the amazing Mr. Smith.
Carly Jamison released "Keeping Christmas" this year as her 6th annual original Christmas single. I hope there are many, many more to come. Carly's Christmas songs were one of the best surprises of the season for me.
Pentatonix - "A Pentatonix Christmas"
Pentatonix is as hot as they come - a new Christmas album, an NBC special, probably the best selling Christmas record of this season. And, in my opinion, their success and praise is well-deserved. This turned into a favorite this year.
Phoebe Gildea and Noah Brenner - "All is Bright"
The debut album by soprano Phoebe Gildea and harper/baritone Noah Brenner was an incredibly arranged and performed album. Coming to life through a Kickstarter campaign, Phoebe and Noah's album is beautiful, and in its own niche in my Christmas music library.
The Snow Globes - "Snowed In"
What is becoming Kansas City's best annual Christmas tradition, the Snow Globes released "Snowed In" this year, an excellent addition to their catalog, and to your Christmas music library!
Tim Neely's Christmas Songs of the Day
Matt Casarino's 200 Days of Christmas
If you don't follow these two gentlemen with encyclopedic knowledge of Christmas music, you should. Tim Neely gives us a new Christmas Song of the Day throughout the season. All are excellent, many will be new to even the most dedicated collector. Matt Casarino ups the game with 200 Christmas songs through 2/3rds of 2016. Some classics, some new, some obscure, all interesting and meaningful. I hope Matt is back next year with a new 200 Days.
So, there are some favorites this year, my personal 'best of 2016'.