If you answered yes to any of those questions (or even if you didn't), you should give Straight No Chaser a listen. They are a college-turned-professional a cappella group that originated in 1996 at Indiana University. In 1998 they all graduated, found jobs, got married, and grew up. Now fast forward ten years later. In 2006, a 1998 video of "The 12 Days of Christmas" became wildly popular on YouTube and led to a five year record deal with Atlantic Records in 2008.
Ten years later! Isn't that awesome? Here is that video:
The first record they released was, of course, a Christmas album and one of my all time favorites. Holiday Spirits is 14 songs of holiday fun guaranteed to make you feel merry. But not only that, they are superb singers. Their sound is pure, the crooning leads are sweet storytellers, and the backgrounds are sung impeccably.
My favorites are Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, The Christmas Song, and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing/Angels We Have Heard on High. Great arrangements, exceptional leads, and all around excellent execution on these songs. I also really enjoy the departure from the standard Carol Of The Bells. The bass singer is the highlight in this song. The quiet parts of Silent Night are also very elegant.
The live version of The 12 Days of Christmas comes in the middle which I think interrupts the natural flow of the album. I like that they included it, because that's how they received their big break, but I would have placed it at the end instead of Auld Lang Syne (another great arrangement, by the way).
Overall this album is exactly what I expect from a Christmas album - a little traditional mixed with some modern pop. I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who adores Christmas music.