This was a great year for some of my favorite names in Christian music to dig deep into God's Word for inspiration. God's Word doesn't return void, and these albums have blessed me the most this past year.
There have been several career albums released this year by both new and established artists. Matt Maher, Ellie Holcomb, John Tibbs, Brandon Heath, Bethany Barnard, Carrollton, Holly Starr, Young Oceans, Aryn Michelle and Caroline Cobb each released their "best" albums yet in my opinion, and they round out my Top 10. I've purposely left off worship releases, since I have already posted a separate list of my top albums in that area (read it here).
This was another solid year for Christian music. Don't miss out on any of these great albums, along with the 10 honorable mentions, rounding out my top 20 albums of 2017. I'd love to read your feedback on albums I might have missed, and whether there are any surprises on this list.
1. Matt Maher: Echoes
Highly anticipated after the success of his last album Saints and Sinners, this compelling 16-track album Echoes (Deluxe) is an excellent follow-up. The album keeps Matt's signature holy energy flowing and has plenty more songs that you'll soon be singing with fellow believers. The album perfectly captures the penetrating spirit and charisma Matt Maher's worship songs have become known for. Maher's theological, holy and reverent style of writing and singing worship songs has consistently attracted me. Several of Maher's new prayerful sentiments should be added to your Sunday morning worship set, especially "Clean Heart," "What a Friend," "Holy," "Your Love Defends Me" and the gorgeous ballads "Faithfulness," "Into Your Hands" and "As Good As it Gets." This album provides listeners with incredible moments of vertical offerings and responses to God that you can sing in any circumstance, and this is my album of the year.
Get it on iTunes here. Vote for Matt Maher in the We Love Christian Music Awards by clicking here.
2. Ellie Holcomb: Red Sea Road
Ellie is an anointed songwriter, and she has a profound way of bringing me closer to God with her poignant words, tender singing and inspirational truths. I get welled up singing along with several of the emotion-laden songs on Red Sea Road. I've been yearning for more "gourmet" songs like these since As Sure As The Sun. Ellie brings sincerity and relatable themes that get deeper with each listen.
This is an emotional listening experience. All eleven songs are catchy, personal and biblically focused. If you liked No Turning Back, then you absolutely must have Faith Hope Love Repeat. With each album from Brandon, I hear maturation in the subject matter with lyrical depth and musical layers that have made him among my favorite male artists, alongside Jason Gray and Josh Wilson. If you like a singer-songwriter who sings about the truth of what it means to walk with God and work out their salvation with fear and trembling, then don't miss out on one of Christian music's most treasured artists. I get welled up singing along with several of the emotion-laden songs, especially "Whole Heart," "Faith Hope Love Repeat," "You'll Find Love Again" and "Only One in the World." If you are looking for the top male singer-songwriter album of the year, look no further than this stellar offering.
Get it on iTunes here. Vote for Brandon Heath in the We Love Christian Music Awards by clicking here.
4. John Tibbs: Heartland
John has strong vocals, personal lyrics and a testimony of grace that can be heard in each song on Heartland, which reflects John's personal experiences of traveling and singing throughout the heartland of the country. This is one of the most uplifting, challenging and introspective albums I've heard this year. Whether as an album to set the mood for reflection and worship or for personal times of devotion, I rate Heartland highly for fans of truth telling singer-songwriters. John's vulnerability and ability to connect emotionally in his songs brings me closer to God.
5. Young Oceans: Suddenly (or the Nuclear Sunburst of the Truth Revealed)
Something about Young Oceans' music that I've consistently enjoyed ("Great is Our God," "My All in Thee") is the ability to escape daily stress and pressures while listening to the songs while still worshipping God and being intellectually challenged. Suddenly is an incredibly deep, worshipful and emotional alternative rock album with the standout tracks "This Wild Earth," "Heaven Has Come" "Are We Not One" and "Suddenly." If you like the alternative rock artists The Fray, The Rocket Summer and Between the Trees, you need to check out Young Oceans. Suddenly is easily the best alternative music album of the year. Do yourself a favor and get this album immediately.
A Better Word is a Spirit-filled and emotional listening experience filled with profound lyrical truth. All eleven songs are catchy, worshipful and biblically inspired. Bethany Barnard (formerly Bethany Dillon) expresses her prayers to God, allowing listeners to eavesdrop on her vertical offerings and captivating ballads, one of Bethany's strengths. Bethany is an anointed songwriter, and she has a profound way of bringing me closer to God with her poignant words, tender singing and inspirational truths. I get welled up singing along with several of the emotion-laden songs, especially "My Soul Waits" "There's A River" and "A Better Word." Bethany has consistently been one of my all-time favorite female singer-songwriters, from her debut album Bethany Dillon and stand-out songs "All I Need" and "Beautiful." Don't hesitate to pick up this great return from one of CCM's top female artists. A Better Word is Bethany's best album of her incredible career.
With this excellent album, Carrollton is offering a great example of how you can write and sing lyrics that are unashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and reach the lost with transparent confessions of faith. Throughout Everything Or Nothing, I love the confessional and biblical lyrics and hook-filled melodies such as in "Glimpses," "Shelter," "Stand My Ground" and "Giving It All to You." Carrollton is the best new band to hit the Christian music scene since label-mate Unspoken, in my opinion. The album is chock full of potential radio singles, and every song is completely captivating. If you've been desperately waiting for a fresh filling of Christ-focused catchy songs about relying completely on God's grace, then don't miss out on this incredible album.
Holly Starr's vocals are so strong and pure. Electronic pop music has made a big mark on the music scene, and the production on these ultra-catchy pop songs could easily be featured in mainstream music alongside top-selling artists. If you like female singers that make you think while you enjoy their catchy and empowering songs, Human is for you. I have three young daughters, and this is a solid upbeat pop album with positive biblical messages which is a great alternative to mainstream pop artists. This is easily my top pop album of the year.
Get it on iTunes here. Vote for Holly Starr in the We Love Christian Music Awards by clicking here.
9. Aryn Michelle: The Realest Thing
From my first listen, I was totally captivated by this album. I'm really engaged by Aryn Michelle's emotional vocals and the deep, prayerful lyrics. There are no filler tracks on The Realest Thing, and this is easily one of my top "gourmet" albums of the year. Every song will have you hanging on each word that Aryn tenderly sings as she unpacks apologetic concepts. Her vocals will soothe your soul, and the vertical lyrics will direct your attention and focus on Jesus. These are truly poignant songs of adoration about "The Realest Things:" Jesus Christ and "The Story of Redemption."
In the style of my favorite singer-songwriters Christa Wells, Sara Groves and Ellie Holcomb, I can't get enough of Caroline Cobb's thought-provoking album A Home & A Hunger. Rarely has an album affected me this deeply, as many of the songs cause me to physically feel the depth and sincerity of Caroline's songs. She is clearly in love with God, and the way these songs convey her prayerful and biblical relationship with our Lord is truly inspiring and convicting.
NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.
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