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The Best, Worst and Weirdest in Holiday CDs

Every year brings a flood of new holiday CDs, and with good reason: They're quick and easy to make, most if not all of the songs have already been written (many are even in the public domain), and they get reissued practically every year, making them a reliable source of royalties and exposure. Consequently, the genre is larded with quickie compilations and cash-ins — if you were to play all of 2006's new holiday albums back to back, it would take at least as long as it takes to beg for silence while punching yourself in the ears — but a few gems and entertaining oddities stand out. Here's a look at a dozen of the year's best, worst and weirdest.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)