Most of us agree that 2015 was a bit light in regards to the new release schedule. While there was plenty that came out in the standard genres of worship, pop and contemporary, the smaller categories like rock, dance and rap were a bit underwhelming and Christmas was next to nonexistent with only a few major artists releasing full holiday albums next to a small handful of digital EPs and singles.
So goes the cyclical music business, and a lighter year can only mean one thing. Hold on for a fantastic 2016.
The first few months of 2016 have some pretty big releases on the schedule and we thought we'd take a few minutes exploring what's coming nex in Christian music.
Vineyard Music (1/1, 1/15, 1/22)
The group that started the church-led worship movement is coming back in force with a new EP out now, a new full length album, Anchour Studio Sessions, hitting Jan. 15 that reimagines many of their hit songs and the UK team will have a new album, Open, the following week on Jan. 22. "Vineyard's churches have always been writing music," says Jason Hagen, general manager of the label. "These new releases represent the best of the best and it's great to be back releasing albums again."
Crowder (1/15) Following the success of Neon Steeple, including a Dove Award & the top charting radio singles “I Am,” “Come As You Are” and “Lift Your Head Weary Sinner (Chains),” Crowder is releasing an expanded edition of Neon Steeple with a bonus disc of live audio recorded in Atlanta, GA earlier in 2015.
Jesus Culture (1/15) The church's ninth album captures the heart of the community of the one-year-old church in Sacramento, CA seeking Jesus with a desire to know Him more and to see this passion spread from cities to nations. Let It Echo is the first album recorded live in front of their congregation in their new city where they planted the local expression of the Jesus Culture movement. This album includes 12 new songs featuring Kim Walker-Smith, Chris Quilala, Bryan & Katie Torwalt and more.
January proves to have no shortage of worship heavy hitters, and this Passion album is part of the crowded field. It will contains new studio recordings from best-selling artists Chris Tomlin, Crowder, Matt Redman, and Kristian Stanfill. Since the first release in 1998, Passion albums have sold over 1.3 Million units. We're looking forward to the next anthems the church will be singing from this release.
Lacey Sturm (1/29)
Lacey Sturm will release her highly anticipated debut solo album in early 2016, four years after announcing her departure as lead singer of Flyleaf. The vocalist will release Life Screamsindependently via Followspot Records and distribute through Fuel Music. The album's first single, "Impossible," is available now on all digital outlets. "I was listening to the radio one day and I said to myself, 'If I hear one more song telling people to kill themselves and go to hell, I'm going to have to put a record out!'" exclaims Lacey. "I just think it would be a good thing to have a voice in the mix of all the hopelessness that actually gives you a light at the end of the tunnel."
Elevation Worship (2/5)
Filled with stirring anthems and shouts of praise, prayer is a central theme to Here As In Heaven. This album encourages listeners to bring the regrets and mistakes of their past to the altar and accept a grace that not only covers their struggles, but empowers them to rise up in victory and be resurrected to a new life in Jesus.
John Tibbs (2/5) John Tibbs is a gifted singer and songwriter who may have flown under your radar, but not the radar of the music critics or the millions of users on music discovery website NoiseTrade. Known for his powerhouse vocals that demand attention, John also has the ability to quietly and tenderly communicate a message on the most personal level. His full-length debut is widly aniticpated to put a new voice on the made of contemporary music.
Newsboys (2/12) Before there was the book, the movie or the movement there was a hit song from the Newsboys. God's Not Dead - The Greatest Hits of the Newsboys pairs the now RIAA Certified Platinum-selling single, "God's Not Dead (Like A Lion)" with some of the band's biggest hits including "Born Again" and "Revelation Song." The collection comes ahead of a new studio album from the band, scheduled for Mar. 4.
Jody McBrayer (2/12) One of Christian music's most decorated vocalists returns to the spotlight. Fans will remember Jody McBrayer as the powerhouse tenor with Truth (1991-1992, 1994-1996) and Avalon (1006-2007). During his hiatus from touring, Jody has served as a worship leader for several organizations and recently Friends Church in Yorba Linda, CA. But now, fans can anticipate a new recording of newly arranged favorites ("The Mind of Christ" and "Good To Be Home") as well as new original material. "God has renewed my calling," states McBrayer. "My ears are open and my mind is focused on the new direction in which He is leading." Keep Breathing will release just in time to support a full touring schedule for 2016.
Audrey Assad (2/12)
Audrey Assad, who announced she was leaving Christian music a few year's back, is releasing her second independent album, Inheritance, on Fortunate Fall Records with Tone Tree Music distribution. A collection of hymns and original songs that both pay homage to her childhood heritage and to her Catholic faith and charismatic spirituality, the highly anticipated album has already been pre-ordered by thousands of fans through a PledgeMusic campaign while the iTunes pre-order campaign is slated to launch Jan. 29. Welcome back, Audrey!
Nine Lashes (2/19) Is Nine Lashes the latest rock act to fuse electronic vibes into their core? Not much is known yet of the third album from Nine Lashes, but if the first single, "Galaxy" is any indication, get on your dancing shoes. Either way, we'll be loving this release just as much as their previous albums.
Bethel Music (2/19) Bethel Music's upcoming album Have It All features 14 new songs centered upon God's nature. His promises and His presence in our lives. Featuring 13 worship leaders from the Bethel Music Collective including Brian & Jenn Johnson, Jeremy Riddle, Steffany Gretzinger, Amanda Cook, William Matthews, Jonathan Helser and more, this album is the first to be recorded live during Bethel Church weekend services since For The Sake of the World (2012). The album captures the refreshing essence of live worship and includes spontaneous moments as those gathered respond in his presence.
Meredith Andrews (2/19)
Meredith Andrews is set to release her fourth album, titled Deeper, on Feb. 19. This multi-Dove Award winning artist continues to utilize her musical artistry to share about God's never-ending love for each of us. "This album came from the last year and a half, which has been a nitty gritty season for me," Andrews shares. "In these past months, I finally got to the place where I realized the Lord is all I've got. I realized that He has to take us to hard places to receive the blessings He has ready for us, where we can just truly focus on Him."
Hillsong Young & Free (2/26)
Hillsong Young & Free's anticipated full-length sophomore project, Youth Revival, was born from filling stadiums globally with their notable EDM and pop sounds. The songs articulate the deep desire of the human heart for something more. Clearly, the project continues their own journey of experience through their faith.
Christon Gray (2/26) The rapper's first album on Kirk Franklin's Fo Yo Soul Recordings is titled The Glory Album. Kirk recently spoke with RapZilla about the surprise signing, saying "We just want to align ourselves with talent that we think still has a very current, relevant voice in the culture that can help us push this agenda. We want to make God famous, in terms of, him being on the lips of people's mouths, and we think that Christon has that type of unique gift as an emcee, as a songwriter and as a singer who can be part of trying to make that conversation continue -- even at a time of when the dialogue is harder to have."
Kevin McNeese started NRT in 2002 and has worked in the industry since 1999 in one form or another. He has been a fan of Christian music since 1991, witnessing first hand the year that changed Christian music forever.
NEW! AN NRTEAM FEATURE The Evolution of Matthew West's Music What's changed about the storyteller since he started?
NEW! NRT LISTS
8 Indie Worship Projects You Need to Hear In the 'Year of Worship,' check out our list.
NEW! BEHIND THE SONG DEVOTIONALS
Jeremy Camp & Vertical Worship 'Word of Life' and 'Set My Heart' interviews tell us ...