2011 Christian Music Faves

Honestly, I hate the term Christian music. It implies that Christian is an entertainment genre, which is absolutely ridiculous. Songs aren’t Christians. Record labels aren’t Christians. Bands aren’t Christians.

However, songs are written by Christians. Record labels employ Christians, and bands are made up of Christians. Sometimes, these Christians working at record labels find Christians who are writing songs about their Christian faith. They put these songs on an album, and then radio stations that employ Christians play these songs for people who are also Christians.

But let’s be honest: that’s a lot to type and probably wouldn’t fit in a shameless self-plugging tweet.

The term Christian music may offend some, but there is no denying that there is a large body of music written by Christians and for Christians. I care very deeply about the Christian music industry. I don’t think I would be alone in saying that my faith has been shaped in many ways by a few Christian music greats. For me it’s been Terry Taylor, Reese Roper and Derek Webb. For others it’s been Michael Card, Toby McKeehan, Chris Tomlin, Larry Norman…the list goes on.

All that to say this: I’ve been looking to expand this blog and write a little more than just off-the-wall devotionals. And I figured, what better place to start than with Christian music? When I first started this blog, I wrote a few Christian music reviews and enjoyed it, so this is my first baby step at diversifying my blog content.

So here you go. My favorite things to come out of the Christian music world in 2011.

Best Newcomer

Kye Kye

Maybe this is a loose interpretation of “newcomer,” since essentially the same band had already released an album under the name Paper Rings. But Young Love was their first album as Kye Kye, and I want to find some place to honor these guys. It’s rare to find a band with such gorgeous, interesting music and such fantastic lyrics, so these guys have been a real treat to discover. Plus, they have pretty much every song they’ve ever recorded up on their YouTube to stream. They don’t have the sound of a band that will rule the airwaves – we’ve only played one of their songs on a limited basis on MyPositiveEdge – but they are a real pleasure to listen to.

Runners-up

I Am Empire
Shonlock
Write This Down

Best Solo Artist

Derek Webb

If you ask me, Derek Webb is one of the most challenging and thought-provoking songwriters in Christian music today. His 2009 release Stockholm Syndrome pointed out some major problems in the Church, and it explored a disco/electronica sound that many Christian artists are just now beginning to touch. This year, he released Feedback, an instrumental electronic album meant to represent the Lord’s Prayer. The album came with photos and pieces of abstract art meant to accompany each song to help with meditation on the various lines of the prayer. Add to that his Democracy project, where fans vote on a weekly basis for different songs for Derek to cover and release, and this is my candidate for solo artist of the year.

Runners-up

Lecrae
Mat Kearney
Laura Story

Best EP

After Edmund – Times Have Changed EP #1

After Edmund’s last full-length album was pretty good, but nowhere near Times Have Changed.  This album and their Christmas release have showed that this band has done some major fine-tuning in their sound and overall personality as a band. If this is the new After Edmund, then I can’t wait for a full-length album.

Runners-up

Abandon Kansas – Abandon Kansas EP
Stellar Kart – A Whole New World EP
Relient K – Is For Karaoke EP

Best Album

Eisley – The Valley

It had been awhile since Eisley released an album when The Valley dropped this year, but it was definitely worth the wait. Beautiful vocals, fantastic arrangements and powerful lyrics come together on every single song here. I could not stop listening to this album when it first came out. Plus, I’m a sucker for bands that feature string arrangements in their music. Maybe that’s just leftover from listening to ELO nonstop in high school. Whatever the case, there were a lot of great albums released this year, and this was the toughest category to pick. Eisley comes out ahead by a nose, though.

Runners-up

Gungor – Ghosts Upon the Earth
Switchfoot – Vice Verses
Abandon Kansas – Ad Astra Per Aspera

Best Artist

Abandon Kansas

These guys were easily my favorite band this year. Their album Ad Astra Per Aspera was absolutely fantastic, featuring a nice, distinctive guitar tone and a great vocal performance from Jeremy Spring. But what gives them this spot was their relationship with fans. These guys know fans are what keep them going, and they do everything they can to show their appreciation. They released a free EP before Ad Astra Per Aspera hit stores. They invited fans to remix songs of theirs, and then released some of those on an EP. Jeremy Spring had his yearly Living Room Tour, which is exactly what it sounds like. These guys have great music and a tight bond with their fans. I could not be more impressed with them.

Runners-up

Future of Forestry
Gungor
Lecrae

So those are my picks for the year. What do you think? Did I miss someone? What are your picks?

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