It’s definitely that time of year, as Christmas albums start to pop up left, right and centre and getting in there early is actress and singer Lea Michele with her debut holiday album Christmas in the City. It’s a very New York take on the festive season, tending towards the secular than the sacred, and the result is smoothly satisfying, especially in its strong choice of collaborators.
Michele sounds at her best when partnered by former Glee co-stars Darren Criss and Jonathan Groff. On their respective duets of ‘White Christmas’ and ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’, there’s a beautiful lightness of touch to these interpretations of such familiar material. Trading lines and harmonies with all the elegance of Torvill and Dean, the musical beauty here is just lovely.
And when this restraint is the watchword, this Christmas album really does feel a cut above the average. A hushed ‘O Holy Night’ is genuinely affecting as it builds its orchestral swell, there’s real maturity to the vocal in ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ But sometimes it can go too far, a melancholy version of Frozen’s ‘Do You Want To Build A Snowman’ ends up way too mawkish.
Ultimately, despite its highs, Christmas in the City does prove something of a mixed bag. There’s perhaps just a touch too much forced jollity in the opening ‘It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year’, original song ‘Christmas in New York’ doesn’t really cut it in this company, and an overblown take on ‘Angels From The Realms of Glory’ featuring Cynthia Erivo doesn’t achieve the transcendent heights it aims for. But when this album gets it right, boy is it good. Thank Santa for playlists.