Alright folks, there's less than 48 hours until Christmas, and less than 72 until Kwanzaa. That means I'll only have an excuse to be insufferable for a short while longer—at least when it comes to Christmas music. Here are two new Christmas music releases, and two non-Christmas ones to check out as well. And if it's pitch-perfect, powerhouse, chill-inducing live vocals you're after, then watch Ariana Grande’s live music documentary Excuse Me, I Love You, during which she performs 25 of her biggest hits on the Sweetener Tour.
A Charlie 3rown Christmas Vol. 1, Charlie 3rown
On December 18, Portland-based jazz pianist Charlie 3rown dropped a 7-track holiday EP, A Charlie 3rown Christmas Vol.1, that's inspired by this weird (and pretty sad) 2020 holiday season. The project includes a slew of alluring local features such as rapper Rasheed Jamal, percussionist Cory Drums, soul singer Blossom, and more. Essential tracks include "Home Alone," featuring Jamal, an instrumental called “Grown Folk Time” featuring percussionist Cory Drums and a solo from trumpeter Noah Simpson; and the lo-fi chill-hop esque "Online Shopping." There are also solid covers of "O Christmas Tree" (featuring Alvin Johnson and yuckgod HD) and "The Christmas Song," another wordless ditty featuring guitarist Sam Arnold.
“Christmas Will Really Be Christmas,” Black Pumas
In November the Black Pumas’ released an exceptional cover of Lou Rawls’ 1967 song “Christmas Will Really Be Christmas,” and the Spotify Single slipped under my radar until recently. Also make sure to catch the Black Pumas epic performance on NPR Tiny Desk at Home series.
No Explanations, Kamaiyah
Bay area rapper Kamaiyah's star has been steadily rising ever since her 2016 debut A Good Night in the Ghetto and being selected as part of the 2017 XXL Freshman Class. The cocky lead single "Big Step" is a big highlight, setting the tone for the rest of the album, which showcases Kamaiyah's flow that blends classic influences with the fresh and innovative. "Don't bring your bullshit to my house," she fiercely recites throughout the album opener. With lots of lyrical themes about self-assuredness, seeking success, autonomy, and not being able to trust people as she maneuvers through the entertainment industry, this album is overwhelmingly enjoyable and contains some of her best work. Highlights include "Still I Rise," "Scared to Lose," "Momma Said," featuring Mozzy, and final track "Bape Hoodie." No Explanations sounds like something we'll be partying to in the coming months... even if we're still partying by ourselves in our living rooms.
"Save it bro..." [E]mpress
After releasing a 23-track project at the top of 2020, Portland-based emcee [E]mpress has delivered another gritty, rock-tinged single, with the ever-applicable title "Save it bro..." Beginning with crisp and energetic drums, [E]mpress demonstrates her vocal prowess: "Trying to find my way/it was way too dark out/so i found my place/right inside this lighthouse/And I can't escape."