It’s already been an incredible year for Christian music. I could limit this post just to albums released in January and February, and I’d still feel like I had a good collection of albums in the mix. It was hard narrowing down my picks for the first half of the year to only five, but these ones really rose to the top. If you want to hear more recommendations, check out the Spotify playlist on the side of this page, below the blatant shameless promotion for my novel. I’m constantly adding stuff to it. I only do one song per artist, so there are going to be some on there from entire albums that I love, and others that I think are gems on otherwise forgettable albums. Feel free to dig in and let me know what you think.
Anyway, here are my picks for this year so far:
John Mark McMillan – Borderland
John Mark McMillan has always been an artist that I appreciated, but didn’t necessarily enjoy. I loved the way he wrote and the way he never tried to sound like every other worship artist out there, but his stuff was always just a little too raw for me. Yes, over-produced music is a problem in the industry, but a little cleanup here and there never hurt anyone. With Borderland, McMillan seems to have found that balance. His voice is deep and edgy, and the instruments are heavy and dark. The music incorporates some electronic elements here and there, especially in the drum sounds, and his lyrics are just as thoughtful as ever. The best I can do to describe the album is to say Interpol and The National got together to make worship music, but even that isn’t quite right. Love At The End is a good indicator of the overall sound of the album, and it just might be my favorite song this year.
- Love At The End
- Holy Ghost
Wolves At The Gate – VxV
Wolves At The Gate’s 2012 release Captors is one of the few metal albums I really love, and VxV takes everything that was great in their last album and improves on it. The guitars are just as heavy and melodic as ever, the choruses are big and soaring, and the lyrics are some of the boldest statements of Christian theology I’ve heard, while still managing not to cross into cheesy preachiness. VxV also features clips of sermons from John Piper sprinkled throughout. It’s an odd match, but it works well. Since they use the clips in several songs, it helps to tie the whole project together.
- The Father’s Bargain
- East To West
Kye Kye – Fantasize
This is just a beautiful album from start to finish. The brooding synths and atmospheric vocals are great, but to me the thing that really makes the whole album is the production on the drums. In places they are absolutely drenched in reverb, but not in a way that they lose their punch. A lot of synth pop has really wimpy drum sounds, and that ends up ruining it for me, but Kye Kye turned the percussion into a strength on their sophomore album. If you haven’t listened to these guys yet, do yourself a favor and check them out.
- Honest Affection
- Dreams (2am)
Mike Mains & The Branches – Calm Down, Everything Is Fine
I thought this album was decent after the first listen, but the more I’ve played it, the more it’s grown on me. It’s got a great indie rock vibe with some folk and Americana influences. Also, I absolutely love Mike Mains’s vocals. He’s quickly becoming one of my favorite singers in Christian music. He doesn’t have an incredible voice, but it’s unique without being weird, and it fits the band’s style perfectly.
- Calm Down, Everything Is Fine
- Where Love Dies
Being As An Ocean – How We Both Wondrously Perish
Disclaimer: Being As An Ocean has said they’re not a Christian band, rather a group of Christians who write music about things that matter to them, and their faith matters to them a lot. So take that however you want. I do love the overall sound of the album. The vocals shift from aggressive screams to melodic singing to spoken word poetry, and the transition is never jarring. Also, they have ridiculously long and poetic-sounding song titles like “Death’s Great Black Wing Scrapes The Air,” so that’s fun.
- The Poets Cry For More
- L’exquisite douleur
Most anticipated albums still to come:
Colony House – When I Was Younger (July 22)
Bellarive – Before There Was (July 22)
House of Heroes - The Smoke EP (August)
- Fever Fever – Aftermath (August 5)
- Remedy Drive – Commodity (September)
Okay, that’s it for me today. What 2014 albums have been your favorites? Which ones are you most looking forward to?