CHRISTMAS CHRISTMAS REVIEWS tobyMAC Christmas in Diverse City (ForeFront Records) FOR FANS OF: John Reuben, Relient K, Owl City QQQQ With an impressive roster of guest singers, it appears the illustrious tobyMac can simply do no wrong. He has given the same thought and precision to his Christmas album as he has to every other slam-dunk project he has created. The lovely “Christmas This Year” boasts a beautiful vocal from Leigh Nash (Sixpence None the Richer), while the techno-infused “The First Noel” gets a boost from Owl City. That’s not to say that the record needs the help... it’s a fabulous effort all on its own. His older original, “This Christmas” also finds a place here, and it sounds perfect nestled in between the reworked classics and the energetic new favorites. Christmas in Diverse City is a fun-filled romp through holiday magic. –Grace S. Aspinwall WE LIKE: “Christmas This Year” DAVID CROWDER BAND Oh For Joy (sixsteps Records) FOR FANS OF: Passion, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman QQQ Just a modest eight songs, David Crowder’s anticipated Christmas album sounds just like you might imagine: resplendent with unique sounds and Crowder’s signature vocal. The arrangements are solid, the song choices are good, but the band fails to move outside of comfort here. The best moments on the album are the simple arrangements of songs, “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Silent Night.” It’s not a stroke of genius, but it is solid, festive and classic. WE LIKE: “The First Noel” HAWK NELSON Christmas (Tooth & Nail/BEC) FOR FANS OF: Adrenalized Christmas tunes QQQ If you thought a holiday release would tone down the raucous fun Hawk Nelson is known for, then you’ll be disappointed. But if you’re ready for a fun, festive time around the tree, then Christmas is for you. It’s a simple, straightforward compilation of seven songs ranging from well-known (“Silent Night”) to more obscure (“The Holly and the Ivy”), but the Ontario quartet wrap them all together with one fist raised in the air. –Grace S. Aspinwall –Matt Conner WE LIKE: “The Wassail Song” KUTLESS This Is Christmas (BEC) FOR FANS OF: Traditional Christmas music wrapped in riffs QQQ Kutless’ first foray into the holiday genre is as traditional as a rock band can get. This Is Christmas features four traditional tunes like “O Holy Night” and “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” among its six total tracks and the familiar songs stay familiar. Two originals, “Beautiful” and the title track, lend some variety to the package with the former serving as the EP’s highlight. WE LIKE: “Beautiful” MATTHEW WEST The Heart of Christmas (Sparrow Records) FOR FANS OF:Newsong, Brandon Heath, Mandisa QQQQ Matthew West has not made a great Christmas album. He has made a stunning one. West achieves just the right balance of big-band style holiday classics and well-crafted modern songs. If you thought “The Christmas Shoes” (Newsong) was a tearjerker, prepare for West’s “One Last Christmas” which is wrenching, hopeful and just plain beautiful. Classics like “O Holy Night” and the lovely interlude of “Silent Night” will likely find their way into Christmas mornings everywhere. –Matt Conner –Grace S. Aspinwall WE LIKE: “One Last Christmas” 32 CCM