Top 10 Albums of 2012
Lead Contributor Kevin Davis shares his picks for the Top 10 albums of 2012.

In my opinion, there have been several "best" albums released in 2012 by both new and established artists. I am thrilled with the quality of new Christian releases this year with many practically perfect albums dominating my top albums list. 
The unique aspect of 2012 for me is that it seems to be the year of the sophomore album, with my top two albums being the follow-up releases from Audrey Assad and Chris August. The list also includes the sophomore projects by Sidewalk Prophets and Lara Landon. 
Continuing the trend of the emergence of female artists from last year, there are 4 female artists on my top 10 albums list: Audrey Assad, Britt Nicole, Lara Landon and newcomer Lindsay McCaul. I am also very impressed by the latest releases by industry veterans Third Day, Tenth Avenue North, Kutless and Group 1 Crew, who have each released their career "best" albums in my opinion. 
Here are my top 10 albums of 2012 and 10 honorable mentions rounding out my top 20 albums of the year. I'd love to read your comments if you have a few minutes to post. Enjoy!
1.  Heart by Audrey Assad (February 14, 2012)
Audrey Assad's new album, Heart, is loaded with meaningful, engaging and beautiful songs and is the most amazing album by a female vocalist I've ever heard. Heart by Audrey Assad ranks with Invisible Empires by Sara Groves and Albertine by Brooke Fraser as a flawless and emotional depiction of the beauty and majesty of our Creator's heart. Thank you, Audrey, for blessing us with your gifted gorgeous vocals and for pouring yourself into songs that deeply stir my soul. 
Audrey Assad is my favorite new female vocalist and this album really captures the beauty and sincerity of her incredible vocals and stirring songs. The House You're Building captivated me and Heart has completely "won me over." From start to finish, all 12 songs weave a tapestry that is artful, engaging, catchy and emotional. After several listens and goose-bump-inducing moments, I am convinced that this is now my favorite album, ever. If I'm ever stranded on a deserted island and I can only listen to one album the rest of my days, Heart by Audrey Assad is the album I'll take with me.
2.  The Upside Of Down by Chris August (August 21, 2012)
The Upside Of Down by Chris August is one of the most compelling and lyrically transparent albums of the year. Chris has vaulted himself amongst the industry's top singer-songwriters with an album that rivals the latest by Bebo Norman, Brandon Heath and Jason Gray. As it turns out, we only scratched the surface of August's soulful, inspiring and meaningful storytelling with his GMA Dove Award-winning debut album. If you want to be challenged, moved, and get deeper with Chris August, don't miss out on this practically perfect album. Several of these songs are instant classics and for sure, August is the front-runner for Pop/Contemporary Album, Artist, and Male Vocalist of the Year. As one of the tracks proclaims, "Amen, Amen, and the people said, Amen." 
3.  Gold by Britt Nicole (March 26, 2012)
Britt Nicole's earlier singles "Walk On The Water" and "Set The World On Fire" have been featured in television shows and movies, and now with Gold she is poised to "Breakthrough" as the premier female artist in all of Christian music. She has an infectious and upbeat musical style, layering her strong and distinguished vocals over the top of one hooky melody after another. Britt Nicole has really emerged as one of the top female vocalists in any genre and she is a great role model for girls struggling with identity issues. 
This album is loaded with positive grace-filled messages of hope. The upbeat and heavily produced musical arrangements on this album perfectly accentuate Britt's powerful and passionate songs. Don't miss out on one of the most upbeat and fun albums of the year. You'll won't be able to help but dance and sing along with the stand-out songs, "Gold," "All This Time," "Look Like Love," "Ready Or Not," "Breakthrough," "The Sun Is Rising," "Amazing Life" and "Still That Girl." Along with Heart by Audrey Assad this is my top album by a female artist and one of my top overall albums of the year. If you liked The Lost Get Found, then you'll love Gold by Britt Nicole. 
4.  Miracle by Third Day (November 6, 2012)
Miracle is the Third Day album I've been waiting for since Time; I'm amazed by it. I'm so glad they went back to their roots. I became a "Gomer" with the Southern gospel-rock and passion of songs like "Thief," "Love Song" and "Forever." If you are a longtime fan of Third Day, be very excited about Miracle. Here's your chance to learn what has made Third Day the premier rock band in all of Christian music. Every song is on this album is a guaranteed hit, especially "Hit Me Like A Bomb," "Kicking And Screaming," "For The Rest of Your Life," "The Victory" and one of my selections for Song of the Year, "I Need A Miracle." The music is catchy, every song rocks, and in my opinion this is the best overall album of Third Day's distinguished career.
5.  Live Like That by Sidewalk Prophets (March 26, 2012)
Just as their debut album These Simple Truths delivered the smash No. 1 singles "You Love Me Anyway" and "The Words I Would Say," I expect similar results for Sidewalk Prophets' sophomore album, Live Like That. The album is chock-full of potential radio singles and every song is completely captivating. The surefire hit songs are "Live Like That," "Save My Life," "Keep Making Me," "It's Good (Love's Not Safe)," "Wrecking Ball" and closing ballad "This Is Not Goodbye." 
Dave Frey says, "This album is a reflection of our journey in music and our desire to live our lives in such a way that it is rooted in a deep passion and love that knows no bounds." The message of committing to extravagant selflessness and faithful optimism threads its way through every song and Live Like That is on par with the excellent The Generous Mr. Lovewell by MercyMe, both in music and message. 
6.  The Struggle by Tenth Avenue North  (August 21, 2012)
The Struggle is a great collection of confessional and authentic expressions of faith. It appears that the success of the band has allowed them to creatively express themselves and for me that has really paid off with yet another "best" album. The album's themes are brokenness, healing, forgiveness and mercy. Once again the songs are poignant and resonant, and the band brings a more seasoned level of musicianship and intensity--on par with Coldplay, Hillsong UNITED and Jars of Clay. For me the stand-out songs are "Shadows," "The Struggle," "Worn," "Losing," "You Do All Things Well" and "Lamb of God." With one listen to this album it is obvious Tenth Avenue North is taking another bold step forward on their musical journey.
7.  Believer by Kutless (February 28, 2012)
Kutless is back with a crop of strong tracks in Believer. "Even If" has biblical lyrics proclaiming truth from Isaiah 55: "Lord we know Your ways are not our ways, So we set our faith in who You are," and Romans 8: "We trust You always, You're working all things for our good, We'll sing Your praise, Even if the healing doesn't come." Amen. 
This is a very enjoyable album and I identify with the messages of every song. Title track "Believer" was co-written by lead singer Jon Micah Sumrall and is a bold statement of faith: "There's not a greater love that you'll find in this life, I'm a believer in Christ." Closing track "Carry Me To The Cross" is a great song for the Church, with the catchy and worshipful chorus: "Hallelujah! You carry me every day, You carry me all the way, Hallelujah! You carry me to the, You carry me to the cross." 
Believer is the band's crowning achievement featuring thirteen excellent rock worship songs. The album has a perfectly balanced mix of rockers and ballads and Jon Micah's vocals have never sounded better. This is their most complete overall album loaded with quality songs that all draw me closer to Christ. If you're looking for the best of Kutless, this is their top album surpassing all of their previous excellent work. For sure, Believer is among the top albums of the year. 
8.  Overcome by Lara Landon (May 1, 2012)
Rarely has an album affected me as deeply as Overcome by Lara Landon. Many of the songs cause me to physically feel the depth and sincerity of Lara's goose-bump-inducing, emotional vocals. Lara is clearly in love with Jesus and how these songs convey her relationship with our Lord and Savior in these songs is truly inspiring and convicting. These songs are meant to be experienced in order as they take the listener on an emotional journey from a place of confronting our humanity and weakness in "Better For The Breaking" and "Defenseless" to being encouraged by "Leah," "The River," "I Want You" and "I See God In You." 
The end of the album is all about victory and empowerment where listeners can declare we will "Overcome" and "The Spirit of the Lord" is upon me. This is one of the most emotionally moving albums I've ever heard. Her remarkable singing voice and her interesting music and lyrics are truly captivating. This is a nearly perfect album. If you like Brooke Fraser, Adele and Sara Groves, you need to get Overcome by Lara Landon.
9.  If It Leads Me Back by Lindsay McCaul (January 13, 2012)
Lindsay McCaul has pure and strong vocals that remind me of Brooke Fraser and Audrey Assad, who--as you've read--are my favorite female vocalists of all time. Based on this album, she gets my nomination as the best new artist and female vocalist I've heard in the past year. "Say My Name," "Ready," "Come Rest," "Take My Hand," "You Never Change," "Speak" and "Let Go" are all stand-out tracks filled with overwhelming biblical truth. 
Lindsay has captivating and catchy songs filled with inspirational lyrics. For me, Lindsay brings sincerity and relatable themes that get deeper with each listen. My favorite albums are the ones that continue to provide new revelations over time by savoring them this album has already done that for me. If you are looking for one of the top female solo albums of the year, then look no further than If It Leads Me Back. I'm sure it will continue to challenge, inspire and move me. This is truly a great album and an uplifting worship experience.
10.  Fearless by Group 1 Crew (September 10, 2012)
Fearless by Group 1 Crew is truly is a departure from the hip-hop style of the band and are musically more in the style of "He Said" and "Walking On The Stars" with Blanca's strong vocals prominently featured. For me, this is a welcome change as I've always enjoyed her vocals and each of these songs is a potential radio hit. Each song also features a bold Gospel message, like in their hit song "Keys To The Kingdom." For me, that's a notable distinction on every song from this great new album. As much as I enjoyed the catchy melodies from Outta Space Love, every song is Gospel message focused on Fearless. As "He Said" rose to the top of the charts, I expect several of these songs to also resonate with radio listeners, especially "His Kind Of Love," "The Difference," "Dangerous," "Fearless," "Not The End of Me" and "Steppin' Out." 
Honorable Mentions:
11.  How To Be Loved by Todd Agnew
12. The Kingdom by Starfield
13. Cold Hard Want by House of Heroes
14.  Lights of Distant Cities by Bebo Norman
15.  Current by Sarah Macintosh  
16.  Into the Glorious by Christy Nockels  
17.  Homemade Worship By Handmade People by Rend Collective Experiment
18.  The Hurt & The Healer by MercyMe
19.  Love Come to Life by Big Daddy Weave  
20.  On the Run by Children 18:3

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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