It’s that time of year where we must list our favourite records once again! My list in 2014 (posted on my other blog, Luc’s Novelties) was one of the most enjoyable posts I’ve ever written, so I’m beyond excited to show what albums have impacted me personally the most this year. First of all, some honorable mentions:
Red: of Beauty and Rage
Rend Collective: As Family We Go
The City Harmonic: We Are
Lifehouse: Out of the Wasteland
Ghost Ship: Costly
See the Rise: Exposures
The Ember Days: Valitus (this was hard to leave off the list, but it stands as a testament to how good this year was)
20. Emery: You Were Never Alone
It took awhile for this release to click, but when it did, I couldn’t get enough. Full of beautiful melodies and screeching screams, You Were Never Alone is, not only some of Emery’s best work yet, but could even possibly surpass their magnum opus, ….In Shallow Seas We Sail. Four years in the making, this album was definitely worth the wait.
19. Toby Mac: This Is Not a Test
Despite Toby’s previous record, Eye On It, being, unfortunately, quite mediocre, my expectations weren’t set too high with this. But when “Backseat Driver” released, it hooked me from the start. This Is Not a Test brings Toby’s creativity to the forefront once again, reminiscing the days of Welcome to Diverse City and Portable Sounds. If you’re looking for an album to get your groove on, look no further.
18. Coldplay: A Head Full of Dreams
While I’m not the biggest Coldplay fan, this new album is simply a joy. From the title track, all the way to the Gospel inspired “Up&Up,” A Head Full of Dreams satisfies through and through with its lush backdrop and whimsical melodies. Though it’s a new sound, Coldplay has released one of their most adventurous and fun (pun intended) albums to date.
17. Fallstar: Future Golden Age
Fallstar just keep getting better and better. After the brilliant Backdraft, the band has continued to mature and experiment to create their most diverse album yet. Mixing metal (and its various sub-genres) with rapcore and slightly poppish melodies, Future Golden Age keeps giving its all until its dying breath, where it then it gets resurrected with the replay button.
16. Amanda Cook: Brave New World
This was definitely a pleasant surprise. Hailing from Bethel’s ever growing roster, Amanda Cook has created one of the most beautifully strewn together worship albums I’ve heard all year. It’s not simply an album to pop on and sing along to, but an album to wash in. It’s ethereal atmosphere and haunting, quiet melodies take the listener to a place of soothing isolation where there’s nothing but God and the listener. No crowd, no loud instrumentals or vocals, just serene beauty. Worship artists, take note, this is how to be brave.
15. NF: Mansion
One of the best rappers to come out of the Christian scene since Lecrae, NF (Nate Feuerstein) has given his all on his debut record. And boy, is it epic. “Intro” continues to take my breath away, and the title track is as heartbreaking as they come. Emotional, powerful, aggressive, dark, and honest, are some of the words to describe NF’s “Mansion.” Scarily enough, I don’t think NF has even begun to tap into his full potential yet, he’s just that good.
14. Haste the Day: Coward
When this was announced, everyone got ecstatic, and for good reason. Haste the Day were (and are) one of strongest Christian metal outfits screaming into the mic during the 2000s. With this reunion album, they came back in a big way. Coward is pure Haste the Day from beginning to end. Both vocalists (Jimmy, the high screamer on some tracks, and Stephen, the lower growler on others) and every musical period they explored from their debut, all the way to Attack of the Wolf King, are featured. If this doesn’t make metal fans smile, I’d be hard pressed to find what will.
13. Josh Garrels: Home
This was the first album I fell in love with this year. Josh is one of the most genuine guys releasing music today. To giving away his albums at no cost, to creating the best music he possibly can (and more), he’s a sure inspiration to any. And his record, Home, fits the description beautifully. To read a little more on the album, check out our review here.
12. Capital Kings: II
The duo known as Capital Kings have given us something that is dearly needed in the CCM realm: EDM. Their first record didn’t do a whole lot for me as it tried too hard to fit within the limited confines of CCM, however, with II, they break the mold almost completely, ushering in a full EDM experience. Tracks such as “Forever,” “Live For the Drop,” and “In the Wild,” can easily rival some of the best of the mainstream (i.e. Avichii, Skrillex, Zedd). What Capital Kings bring us next, I’m already jumping at the thought.
11. Immortal Souls: Wintermetal
Out of the few metal albums released this year under the Christian heading, Immortal Souls’ Wintermetal was a gem of, not only this year, but my entire collection (which is still growing). Immortal Souls crush the listener with a death metal barrage that is both brutal, and melodic. The ballads can easily stand against some of Demon Hunter’s best, and when it gets heavy, it takes your breath away. It’s cold, yet there’s always a fire burning at your side, and I doubt it’s going out any time soon.
10. J-Givens: Fly Exam
Humble Beast can do no wrong. Fly Exam is a masterful work by J-Givens, rivaling both Propaganda and Beautiful Eulogy as my favourite rap act. The lyricism is deep, playful, and profound, and the beats are something not too often heard in rap. Just listen to “Lost in Space” and tell me J-Givens hasn’t got something special. I’m quite confident in my assertion that Fly Exam is one of the best rap albums of our time, and he’s only getting started.
Fun fact, if you click and hold on the video, you can drag it and view in a full 360 degree view!
9. Come Wind: Move in Place
Another artist I didn’t see coming. Come Wind, a folk/indie rock band from Ohio, flew into the ears of music lovers this year and satisfied each one. Move in Place is about as catchy as they come. I’ve been singing “Blessing” ever since it released, and “Clarity” is one of the strongest rock songs of the year. Not only do the up-tempo tracks shine, but when it slows down, it’s enough to draw tears. It’s hard to move in place when I want to tell the whole world about these guys.
8. Twenty One Pilots: Blurryface
The “Ride” this album took me on when it released only continues to impress me today. These guys are geniuses, and to have an artist that isn’t afraid to share their faith become increasingly present in the mainstream is a huge inspiration. “Fairly Local,” while disappointing on first listen, has become one of my all time favourites, and “Goner’s” climax is one of the greatest moments of music I’ve heard this year. If you are yet to spin this record, stall no more, these guys are taking over the world.
7. The Ongoing Concept: Handmade
The most ambitious record of the year; The Ongoing Concept’s Handmade is an insanely frantic half an hour of metal goodness. I remember one commenter (Jonathan from Indievision if I can remember) saying these guys are the Twenty One Pilots of metal, and I completely agree. Each song is different from the next. For example, after the neck-breaking “Prisoner,” the album moves into a jumpy folk jam with “Melody.” Also, did I mention these guys made each of their instruments from hand?
6. Andrew Peterson: The Burning Edge of Dawn
Andrew Peterson is one of the most prolific songwriters of our generation. The C.S. Lewis of today, if you will. The Burning Edge of Dawn is a superb example of profound, yet simple and down to earth melodies and ideas. His relatability is what makes his music so nourishing. From doubt and despair, to joy and praise, I can’t imagine anyone having a hard time liking this. More thoughts on the record can be found here.
5. Sufjan Stevens: Carrie and Lowell
This album was both a major high point, and a low point for this year. I haven’t heard a lot of sad albums since I began listening to music (thanks to me listening to nothing but CCM for a good while, but we’ll get to that in an editorial), but Carrie and Lowell is the saddest record I’ve ever listened to. About grieving over his mother’s death and absence, Carrie and Lowell certainly isn’t a happy listen, but it will leave a profound taste that will positively linger for years to come. To see more of our thoughts, look here.
4. Jon Foreman: The Wonderlands
While not typically an album, Jon Foreman’s ambitious collection for every hour of the day is majorly impressive. Out of the 25 (yes, there is one more on the Darkness EP) tracks, there isn’t a single one I’m ever tempted to skip or is mediocre in the slightest. The lyrics, as always when it comes to Jon, are convicting and inspiring. It’s such a grand collection, not putting it at number one was a hard choice.
3. Talkie: Hablas
When an album surprises you in the best way, it’s one of the greatest moments music can offer. That’s exactly what happened when I downloaded Talkie’s full length, double album, 16 track album debut on Noisetrade. Its sound caught me off guard, and by track three, I was in love. The direction Talkie took with this album is one of the best moves an artist has made this year. Rather than continuing the harder rock of their EP, they choose to follow a style not too far from something found in the 70s (The Beach Boys first came to mind). For those growing up in that era, this album will make you laugh, cry, and take you back to a simpler time, and for those who haven’t, get ready to discover the magic of that time.
It’s not the full song, but it seems to be all there is.
2. Attalus: Into the Sea
This was set as my album of the year for most of the year (It’s even number one on my list posted for Jesusfreak hideout), and it still hurt to bring it down. Simply put, it’s a concept album about the sea. But to end there will do the album no justice. Its 16 tracks take the listener on an unforgettable journey from brokenness to ultimate redemption. There is just so much to say about this record. However, it can feel a little intimidating as it’s over 70 minutes in length, so it can be tough to listen to it all in one sitting. But when you find time to do so, like any good book or film, it’ll feel like it’s over before it has even begun. Our review can be found here.
1. Falling Up: Falling Up
Where do I even begin to describe an album like this? Falling Up (a band I’ve only now begun listening to, sad right?) are known for their extremely experimental sound and cryptic lyrics shrouded in sci-fi storytelling. This album is no exception. I haven’t yet figured out what everything means, and that’s one of the reasons it’s so good. The other is, of course, the music itself. It’s breathtaking. I’ve haven’t heard an album quite like this (even Copeland’s Ixora is getting a run for its money) in a long time. “Boone Flyer,” “The Green Rider,” “Hydro,” “Typhoon,” and “Up In Houses,” in my opinion, are as close to musical perfection one can reach, and the rest of the 12 songs sing in the same vein. I can’t recommend this album enough, it’s just gorgeous. Here’s the full album playlist.
That brings 2015 to a close. 2016 has some serious competition, but I’m more than sure it’ll give a fair fight, maybe even more.