One of the most essential parts of the holiday season is the music we listen to with our family and friends. This year, we especially need to come together to celebrate (virtually or in person), so we’re offering our list of the most comforting and inspiring holiday albums that have been released over the past few months. Included are brief reviews of our top six holiday albums of 2020, including releases from Leslie Odom Jr., Warren Wolf, the original cast of Hadestown, Amber Weekes, Lynda Randle, and Pentatonix. Also included is a list of honorable mentions, since there were too many amazing albums released this holiday season to cover in depth. Although this Christmas and holiday season may be a bit different from what most of us are used to, we hope these new music selections will help make this Christmas feel just as special as the last.
Title: What I’m Feelin’
Artist: Anthony Hamilton
Formats: CD, MP3
Release Date: March 25, 2016
Listening to Anthony Hamilton’s What I’m Feelin’ is taking a plunge into the well-articulated and emotive present as communicated by a seasoned soul artist with an unforgettable singing style. In a music industry guided by commercial radio singles, Hamilton’s album requires your undivided attention: the texts, choral singing, and rhythm section—though loud and cool—are all part of a well-strategized and intimate musical biography that must be understood in order to fully appreciate the album.
A highlight of this album is “Still,” a accompanied by simple piano that showcases Hamilton’s vocals and his ability to hit high notes without any added effects, proving that he is a phenomenal singer. Except for a straightforward chorus, “still in (has) love,” each of this song’s lines belong to a detailed narrative about still being in love.
“What I’m Feelin’,” the album’s title song, will feel pretty familiar to Hamilton’s fans and features a mesmerizingly cool soul groove. “I Want You” is a loud, resonant song with sparse instrumentation despite an overall lavish sound—the synthesizers on this cut are electronic music at its most cunning, deceiving us into believing that Hamilton is singing along to a massive band, allowing listeners to experience lush textures which add up to a great listen. “Grateful” is to the point with its lyrics and instrumentation, musically evoking the deep feelings of love found in the lyrics.
“Save Me” is a funky love song. It’s sometimes hard to pay attention to the song’s lyrics except for the chorus, which Hamilton sings clearly. As with most funky love songs, it doesn’t really climax—Hamilton leaves listeners waiting on a George Clinton or a James Brown scream that will cue the band to break loose, but it never happens.
Check out “Amen,” another cut from What I’m Feelin’:
Much of the instrumentation, for example the use of synthesizers, on this album works well only because of Hamilton’s superb singing voice. His voice is the star of this album, while the rest of the music is a few steps behind him artistically. At this stage it might be wise for Hamilton to turn the page on cool soul songs and begin to work with more avant-garde instrumentation, bringing further nuance to his music.
Reviewed by Adolf Alzuphar