13 New Christmas Albums That Reimagine Holiday Songs

Steve Perry, formerly of Journey, must be proud of his high notes. On “The Season,” he pushes a familiar repertoire — “Winter Wonderland,” “Auld Lang Syne” — down to slow tempos and up into the range where his tenor verges on falsetto. The arrangements take a vintage 1950s approach, jazz-inflected piano with a backdrop of strings. But Perry’s voice no longer soars as smoothly as it did in the “Don’t Stop Believin’” days. It hits grainy, shaky patches so often that songs built for reassurance are strained and filled with tension instead: Is he going to make it through the take? PARELES

Pistol Annies — the songwriting and vocal-harmony alliance of Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley — wrote 10 new songs for “Hell of a Holiday,” dipping into retro styles like Western Swing, girl-group rock and Laurel Canyon pop-folk. Their scenarios encompass holiday cheer, faith and flirtations (“Come on Christmas Time,” which confesses to a “crush on Santa”). But they also recognize that the holidays can be a strain. Among the handful of covers is Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December,” a stoic song from 1973 about a laid-off factory worker, while Pistol Annies also wrote about seasonal depression (“Make You Blue”) and family strife. Over the Southern rock of “Harlan County Coal,” a wife struggles to get through Christmas with a drunken husband and “47 dollars in the gol-durned bank.” PARELES

Joe Robinson, an Australian guitarist, delivers an assortment of familiar Christmas songs — among them “Silent Night,” “Let It Snow” and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” — with self-effacing virtuosity on “Christmas au Chalet.” His versions are real-time acoustic guitar solos, filled with so much springy counterpoint that sometimes it’s hard to believe he’s playing alone. PARELES

As She & Him, the actress and vocalist Zooey Deschanel and the sepia-tinged singer-songwriter M. Ward have always wanted to sound like they were coming to you from another time. Now they can: She & Him’s holiday album is 10 years old, and that’s seemingly reason enough for Merge Records to reissue “A Very She & Him Christmas” in a new set of throwback-themed packaging. The 10th-anniversary-edition vinyl includes a bonus seven-inch single featuring new covers of Wham!’s “This Christmas” and Madonna’s “Holiday.” “Holiday” is a highlight: Deschanel and Ward add some synth, pick up the tempo and loosen up on the carefully cultivated aesthetics just a bit. RUSSONELLO

The Nashville-based songwriter Amanda Shires rewrote “Silent Night” as a despondent, minor-key dirge — “Nothing’s calm/nothing’s been right” — on her album “For Christmas,” which includes nine other songs of her own. They often revolve around holiday romance, whether it’s going well (“Blame It on the Mistletoe”) or not so well (“Home to Me”). With her reedy, tremulous voice and a piano-centered band, Shires works mostly for high drama. But she allows some comedy, too, as in her cheerful shuffle, “Gone for Christmas”: a wish list capped by “I want you gone for Christmas.” PARELES

“Checked the fireplace and your stocking’s missing,” the R&B star Bryson Tiller sings on “Be Mine This Christmas,” a woozy, clenched, lightly sensual hymnal full of regret. On “A Different Christmas,” Tiller’s first holiday release, his vocals are heavily processed and the production is contemporary and varied, all in service of a range of holiday moods: a tender duet with his daughter on “Winter Wonderland”; snappy Atlanta bass energy on “Ain’t a Lonely Christmas Song”; and on “Lonely Christmas,” about a post breakup holiday, his guest Justin Bieber moodily recalling how “we used to get our lights from Walmart.” CARAMANICA

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