Hamilton. By now, you know all about Hamilton. The cast album is one of the best produced we've heard in years, and a perfect document of what is onstage. Lin-Manuel Miranda's score is done full justice by the cast and producers Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson and Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter. It is sure to leave the cast album aficionado on your list "Satisfied."
Fortress of Solitude. In researching my own iTunes library for this article, I was surprised to find that this album was among my most played, but I shouldn't have been. Michael Friedman's score is an amalgamation of soul, funk, rap and pulses with vibrancy. Buoyed by a cast headed by Adam Chanler-Berat, Kyle Beltran and André de Shields, this is a fantastic album.
"What's Inside: Songs from Waitress." It is so refreshing to hear a singer/songwriter score that is tuneful, illuminates the story and is joyful. Sara Bareilles' score for Waitress is exactly that, and her solo album of songs from it (featuring two duets with Jason Mraz) is a must-have. If the show is as good as this album, Broadway is in for a treat.
Cry-Baby. The 2008 Broadway musical finally went into the studio this year to record a cast album with "88.4% of the Original Broadway cast." This funny, rollicking score is sure to delight your ear, especially with a cast that includes the likes of Elizabeth Stanley, James Snyder, Alli Mauzey (a stand-out in the original cast), Christopher J. Hanke, Harriet Harris, Carly Jibson and more. [Full disclosure, I designed this album, but I'd be recommending it either way!]
The Golden Apple. After years of only having a truncated cast album available, it's so wonderful to have the full score by John Latouche and Jerome Moross preserved on two vibrant discs. This live recording includes 87 minutes of previous unrecorded music, and is a treasure.
Fun Home. The 2015 Tony winner for Best Musical updates the Off-Broadway recording with cast changes and creates the definitive cast album of Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron's important, Tony-winning score, performed by a pitch-perfect cast, including Michael Cerveris, Judy Kuhn, Beth Malone, Emily Skeggs and Sydney Lucas.
An American in Paris. For the old-school Broadway lover on your list, the sparkling cast recording of An American in Paris will do the trick. Full of Gershwin standards, and performed by an expert cast with luscious orchestrations, this cast album is a dream.
Notable solo albums that came out this year include "I've Been Played: Alysha Umphress Swings Jeff Blumenkrantz," Linda Eder's "Retro," Judy Kuhn's "Rodgers, Rodgers & Guettel," Liz Callaway's "The Essential Liz Callaway," Betty Buckley's "Ghostlight," Eric Michael Gillet's "Careless Rhapsody: The Heart of Lorenz Hart," Anthony de Mare's "Liaisons: Re-Imagining Sondheim for Piano," "Live at 54 Below" albums from Annaleigh Ashford, Marin Mazzie and Melissa Errico, and the compilations of John Kander ("Hidden Treasures") and Cy Coleman ("You Fascinate Me So" ).
Robbie Rozelle is Playbill's Graphic Designer, and a freelance designer of cast and vocal albums. Follow him on Twitter at @divarobbie.