Well, it’s that time of the year again. Time to take a peek at the albums I purchased in 2015 that rose to the top. Normally I just do five albums but this year there were so many standouts that I had to do a top ten list. There are really only two rules for this list: 1. The album had to be released in 2015; 2. I had to purchase the album. Just listening to it on Spotify doesn’t count.
One caveat on number 1. Occasionally I’ll back an album on Kickstarter and backers will get the album months before it’s released to the general public. This list is based on when I got the album on not on when it was made available to the general public.
1. “Fault Lines” by Andy Gullahorn
This album literally just hit my ears last week. In mid-November Andy Gullahorn created a Kickstarter campaign to help get his already recorded album pushed out to the masses. Everyone who backed it got the album months before the general release hence it landing on this year’s list. “Fault Lines” nearly had me ugly crying on the freeway multiple times on the first time I listened to it. These songs might have you laughing on the first verse and wiping away tears on the second. Some of the songs will stretch you and make you think more deeply about your faith. All of the songs seem to have a common thread of grace for the undeserving running through them. Buy this album.
2. “The Burning Edge of Dawn” by Andrew Peterson
This album strips things down a bit from Peterson’s last stellar release, “Light for The Lost Boy,” and takes the listener on a very personal journey of struggle and hope. Peterson writes songs about real life that always resonate deeply with me and this album is no exception. Standout tracks for me: “My One Safe Place,” “Be Kind To Yourself,” and “The Sower’s Song.”
3. “Just Kids” by Mat Kearney
Mat Kearney’s unique blend of hip-hop, radio friendly pop, and honest lyrics about life and love earn him high marks in my book. Coming off of what was arguably his breakout album, Kearney didn’t play it safe. He crafted an album that played to his strengths as a storytelling songwriter. Standout tracks: “Just Kids,” “Heartbeat,” and “One Black Sheep.”
4. “Flesh” EP by Andrew Osenga
Straight up rock and roll. That’s what Andrew Osenga was hoping to accomplish with this EP. This six song EP doesn’t just have killer riffs but also lyrics that will make you stop and think between the dashboard drumming you’ll inevitably be doing if you give this EP a spin.
5. “Smoke + Mirrors” by Imagine Dragons
How do you follow up a hugely popular debut album? Just like this. Imagine Dragons avoided the sophomore slump with an album that shows their maturing as musicians. It’s still very much an Imagine Dragons album but it keeps thing fresh musically and lyrically. Here’s hoping these guys continue to push themselves in the years to come.
6. “This Is Not a Test” by TobyMac
Wait a tick, TobyMac? I’d been a fan of his earlier albums but found his last album or two to be disappointingly generic. Well, this is a return to form. Infectious beats and lyrics that are simple without being simplistic. This album displays the quality that all mainstream CCM releases should strive for. Standout track is definitely the DC Talk reunion on “Love Feels Like.” That track gives me major 90’s nostalgia.
7.”Home” by Josh Garrels
Josh Garrels writes music that will make you want to sit back with a pair of headphones on and just close your eyes and soak in the music. The songs on this album, as the title would suggest, have a decidedly homeward and intimate focus. This is music that will speak to your soul any time you listen the songs and take your faith deeper. Standout track is “A Long Way” give it a listen and see if it doesn’t leave you feeling like a traveler returning home to family with all the memories and baggage.
8. “Sing The Bible Vol. 2” by Slugs and Bugs
I received this album thanks to backing the Kickstarter and only listened to it after I had listed out my ten albums. Well, this is such a quality recording and so unique that I had to include it. This album is aimed at kids and helping them learn verses of the Bible. The best part…it won’t drive parents batty! In fact, these songs are gems for all ages. Great production values and catchy tunes that were enough to keep this daddy and two little boys happy.
9. “Gold” by Pen Pals
This wonderful little EP by Pen Pals was a wonderful surprise when Heath McNease announced the release of his team up with Jetty Rae through social media. The album is Heath McNease at his folksy best and even though I had never heard Jetty Rae before this album, I was instantly drawn to their tight harmonies and the story of a summer camp romance that this EP chronicles. Highlight is the infectiously upbeat first track, “Camp.”
10. “Floodplain” by Sara Groves
Sara Groves has been around the Christian music industry for a long time. The only song of hers that I recall is one from my youth that I heard on the radio: “Painting Pictures of Egypt.” So when I stumbled upon this release it was like hearing her for the first time. She writes honest songs that speak of the struggles and joys of faith and life. The “realness” of these songs is what earned this album a place on this list and also earned Sara a new fan. Favorite track is “Signal” written about her kids.
“Futureboy” by Nick Flora
“Of This I’m Sure” by Jenny and Tyler