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Favorite 10 Albums of the Decade
NRT's Kevin Davis shares the ten albums that have inspired him the most during the past ten years.

NRT LISTS, Favorite 10 Albums of the Decade
Posted: December 07, 2019 | By: KevinDavis_NRT
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This was a great decade from 2010 to 2019 for some of my favorite names in Christian music to dig deep into God's Word for inspiration. This was arguably the best overall decade for Christian music, for top bands in Christian music in particular, including NEEDTOBREATHE, For KING & COUNTRY and Unspoken. God's Word doesn't return void, and these albums have blessed me the most this past decade.

There have been several career albums released this decade by both new and established artists. New artist Riley Clemmons is my “next big thing” artist to watch and her debut album makes my list. Veteran artists NEEDTOBREATHE, Plumb, Unspoken, Ellie Holcomb, Sara Groves, For KING & COUNTRY, Francesca Battistelli, Jason Gray and Matt Maher each released their "best" albums yet this decade in my opinion, and they round out my Top 10. Don't miss out on any of these great albums. 

1. Rivers in the Wasteland by NEEDTOBREATHE 

No matter your situation, this band has songs that can really bring healing and reflect the cry of your heart, such as their Dove Award-winning songs "Washed by the Water," "Lay 'Em Down," "Something Beautiful," "Slumber" and "Keep Your Eyes Open." The band consistently makes songs that remind us to get to that place where we are in humble submission to God, not playing it safe, but taking a chance and asking for God to be real in our lives. Rivers in the Wasteland is the best album I've heard this decade. The album includes a solid mix of Southern-rock-tinged music with inspirational lyrics. Although every song is absolutely amazing, don't miss the standout songs "Wasteland," "Feet Don't Fail Me Now," "Difference Maker," "Rise Again," "The Heart," "Multiplied" and "More Heart, Less Attack." The very relatable and transparent words of these eleven stellar tracks use poetic descriptions and biblical language throughout, resulting in NEEDTOBREATHE's best album to date.

2. Need You Now by Plumb

I remember the first time I heard Plumb’s song “God-Shaped Hole.” I immediately connected to the catchy melody and poignant lyrics. Throughout her career, she has continued to entertain and challenge listeners looking to fill that “God-shaped hole in all of us.” Need You Now has been one of my favorite albums to savor in many years, as the combination of Tiffany Arbuckle-Lee’s incredible vocal range and her compelling and relevant lyrics have never been more perfectly combined than with this stellar and flawless masterpiece. Every Plumb album is an immersion into her life. Each is unique, tied to the emotions and circumstances that inspired it, and yet each is timeless, identifiable as the outpouring of a singular artistic vision. Every song on this album is excellent.

3. Saints and Sinners by Matt Maher
Saints and Sinners keeps Matt's signature holy energy flowing and has plenty more songs that you'll 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 prayerful sentiments should be added to your Sunday morning worship set, especially "A Future Not My Own," "Deliverer," "Glory Bound," "Because He Lives (Amen)" and the gorgeous ballads "Abide with Me" and "Rest." This album provides listeners with eleven tracks of vertical offerings to God that you can sing in any circumstance.

4. Own It by Francesca Battistelli
I absolutely love Francesca's intentionality and complete focus on God's provision in her life. She is a uniquely gifted singer/songwriter with a big voice that is memorable and dynamic, and yet intimate. These songs all have biblically-based lyrics that poignantly capture life's simple, yet vital messages. I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the prayerful lyrics found in these sacred songs. Francesca’s vocals will soothe your soul, and the vertical lyrics will direct your attention and focus to Jesus. There are several personal songs that melt my heart, especially “Royalty,” “This Can Change Everything,” "You Belong,” “Let the Light In,” “As Good As It Gets,” and “Defender.” If you like female singers that make you think while you enjoy their catchy and empowering songs, Own It is for you. I have three young daughters, and this is a solid upbeat pop album with positive biblical messages that is a great alternative to mainstream pop artists. This is easily Francesca’s “very best” overall album. 

5. Unspoken by Unspoken
If you want to experience an uplifting, soul-stirring, "gourmet" worshipful album, look no further than Unspoken. "You can silence the voices, but you can't stop the song. When the Spirit's moving, His will, will be done. You can bury the workman but the work will go on" is the refrain of the Mark 13:31 inspired sing-along anthem "Bury the Workman." With this excellent album, Unspoken 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. I love these confessional and biblical lyrics throughout the album, and Mattson's emotive vocals cause me to hang on every word such as: "So let the ashes fall wherever they land / Come back from wherever you've been / To the foot of the cross / To the feet of Jesus / Where you are is never too late, so bad, so much that you can't change / At the foot of the cross you can change who you are." 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.

6. Burn the Ships by For KING & COUNTRY 
The album once again demonstrates multi-talented musicianship with creative, insightful lyrics and ear-grabbing melodies. I’m really engaged by the sincere and soothing vocals and the prayerful lyrics throughout the album with the standout songs, “joy,” “God Only Knows,” “Amen,” “Burn the Ships” and “Control.” It’s important as believers that others around us see light reflected in our lives - in our words, actions, behaviors, and even our thoughts. That’s what Romans 12:2 and this album are all about, encouraging us to “burn the ships” of our past mistakes that we often align ourselves with. Don’t conform to the patterns of this world. That’s darkness. Our enemy seeks to destroy us with darkness. Instead, “choose joy.” I really enjoy the soothing and ambient musical vibe of this album, and the melodies and lyrics are all catchy and biblical. Musically the album doesn’t conform to the pattern of typical CCM music. Don’t miss out on this gem.

7. Red Sea Road by Ellie Holcomb

This is a Spirit-filled and emotional listening experience filled with profound lyrical truth. All thirteen songs are catchy, worshipful and biblically inspired. Ellie expresses her prayers to God, allowing listeners to eavesdrop on her vertical offerings and captivating ballads, one of Ellie's strengths. 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, especially "Find You Here," "Red Sea Road," "You Love Me Best" and "Man of Sorrows." I've been yearning for more "gourmet" songs like these since As Sure As The Sun. Don't hesitate to pick up this great return from one of CCM's top female artists. Ellie brings sincerity and relatable themes that get deeper with each listen.

8. Floodplain by Sara Groves

I have the opportunity to listen to literally everything released in Christian music, and Floodplain is a profound listening experience. This album dramatically affects me personally and spiritually. It is the ultimate privilege for me to experience her gift of music making with all of my senses "in Spirit and in Truth." Sara has always had a knack for hitting me where I am spiritually and expressing the prayerful yearnings of my heart. This album is no exception as I get welled up praying along with several of the songs, especially "This Cup," "Expedition," "Floodplain," "Enough," "I've Been Here Before," "I Feel the Love Between" and "Signal." They are all stand-out tracks filled with overwhelming biblical truth and are companions in my personal prayer and worship time. Sara has captivating and catchy songs filled with inspirational lyrics. Sara brings sincerity and relatable themes that get deeper with each listen. This is truly a great album, a moving and prayerful listening experience that reflects how we are bound together as believers in faith, love and vulnerability.

9. A Way to See in the Dark by Jason Gray

The basic message behind Jason’s songs is that “the added benefit is that people are able to see how God's grace works in a real person's life. When we come clean about our brokenness, Christ becomes the star of our testimony and not us.”  If you like folk-style pop music, then Jason Gray is for you. I’ve been very blessed to enjoy Jason’s songs and get to know his heart for God. I get welled up praying along with several of the songs. I love albums that have a consistent message and theme and that move me emotionally. If you like singer-songwriters who wear their hearts on their sleeves and sing 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. Jason has once again invited listeners into his story of faith as each song features Jason's unique brand of gourmet lyrical phrasing embedded with the truth of the Gospel for those "with ears to hear."

10. Riley Clemmons by Riley Clemmons

Riley’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. Being a dad of three young daughters, it is difficult to find role models who are making edifying and exciting pop music. You hear pop music everywhere you go, and most of the time the songs are fairly hollow when it comes to life application and promoting a positive self-image. This album is loaded with positive, grace-filled messages of hope including, “Hold On,” “Better For It,” “Remember,” “Broken Prayers” and “Honest.” The upbeat musical arrangements on this album perfectly accentuate these great songs.

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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