It’s the time of year again. The time where I think back to some of the best new music I was pumping into my brain over the past 12 months. I didn’t buy as many albums this year but the ones I did buy were pretty stinking great even the ones that didn’t make this list. As in years past, these have to be albums I bought and not just ones that I streamed on Spotify. These are in no particular order.
Jason Gray’s last album, Love Will Have The Final Word, was an album that released at the end of a particularly challenging season in the life of my family. Many of the songs felt like they spoke directly about what we had recently walked through. Jason would eventually reveal that many of the songs from that album were written with clouds of his divorce hanging over him. Where The Light Gets In finds Gray singing about the faithfulness and goodness of God and the healing that resulted. Once again, he struck a chord with me because we too have found healing and hope following a difficult season.
Yes, a seasonal album makes the list! This Christmas album with it’s tight harmonies and catchy renditions makes it an instant classic. This is an album that will be a staple of the Christmas season in our home for years to come. Dare I say that this Christmas album is so good that you’ll want to leave it in rotation all throughout the year and not just at Christmas.
Some reviewers said this album had a more “mainstream” feel than The Gray Havens previous album. I’m not sure I buy that. It has a bit more production but the songwriting here is as good as anything they’ve done. Poetic, clever, fun, thought-provoking, catchy, all these words could be used to describe this album. Like Jenny & Tyler, this husband and wife duo just seems to get better as they get more life under their belts. Do yourself a favor and invest in this album in their back catalog.
Heath McNease is one of the most unappreciated talents making music. It seems like he puts out two or three projects each year on top of one off singles. Heath always writes honest lyrics but this album finds him wrestling with questions that have probably crossed the mind of everyone at some point or another. Heath is one of those guys who gives away a ton of music whether through Bandcamp or NoiseTrade and he has a large back catalog of great music. Check out this album and his other works and leave him a nice tip so that he can keep making music. I can’t wait to see what Heath comes up with in 2017.
Sho Baraka writes hard hitting hip-hop and spoken word in the same vein as his label-mate Propaganda. If you are a white Christian who wants to better understand the struggles and concerns of our black brothers and sisters you should check out this album. Sho’s writing might make you uncomfortable with his honesty and non K-LOVE friendly vocabulary but it’s that honesty that makes his work so powerful. This album has a lot of powerful social commentary that we would do well to listen to and take to heart.
Honorable Mention – (Skillet – Unleashed) This album had too many weak songs to make the list but has a lot of catchy rock anthems and is Skillet’s most spiritual album in a decade or so. Skip the weak tracks and enjoy the rock and roll.