Back in June or so I wrote up a reflection of what I thought was the best music I had been listening to in the first half of the year, My Favorite Music of 2015 So Far, and since the year is coming to its end I thought I’d roundup the music I enjoyed the most for the whole year.
- A Head Full Of Dreams, Coldplay. My sense is that lyrically, like most of Coldplay’s catalogue, it will be mostly trite with a few winsome moments. But I’m predetermined to love disco and Coldplay so I’m digging what I hear thus far.
- Floodplains, Sara Groves. I like Sara Groves a lot and was greatly looking forward to this album. When it initially released I listened to it once or twice, it’s good. It feels grown up in some ways but her music has always seemed more mature then some of her contemporaries. But I’ve not been tempted to go back for many listens. Though I’m sure I will in time.
- Live at Coral Ridge, Chelsea Chen. One of my heroes in the worship leading world is Zac Hicks, his blog has been hugely influential to my worship ethos. His church released this contemporary organ concert earlier this fall. It’s super cool – it doesn’t at all sound stuffy like you’d imagine a church organ concert. I really appreciate his church’s sincere effort to bridge tradition and contextualization. This album of organ music did not feel out of place with anything else I enjoyed this year.
- Coming Home, Leon Bridges. Earlier this year my little brother showed me a track from this album and I thought it was nice, if not a little bit derivative. After Bridges’ performance on SNL this past weekend I decided to give the album another try and I’m enjoying it immensely. I’ve had it on repeat for the past three days or so. It’s good enough to be on anybody’s year end, Best Of list…
- All We Need, Raury. Sonically, I adore this album. The folk, hip-hop, jazz fusion is really something else and alone worth the price of admission. That being said, I find it to be lyrically irritating. Thank you, Earnest-19-Year-Old, I didn’t realize that love will fix the world. I’m glad you figured that out for us with your totally original philosophy.
- So There, Ben Folds. This is classic Ben Folds, which I really enjoy – though less than when I was in high school/college. I chuckled like a nerdy 8th grade band geek at some of the prophane Music Theory double entendres. The three-movement concerto at the end is frustrating because it’s the best thing on the album but it’s so disjointed from everything else. I wish Folds had released it seperately but I get that he’s trying to bring symphonic music into the pop realm in a serious way so I’m torn.
- 1989, Ryan Adams. Seriously, he made T-Swift even more sad. I wouldn’t say he improved what she wrote but Adams definitley highlighted her strengths in a unique way.
- Carry The Fire, Dustin Kensrue. Maybe I had been expecting a worship album from his second solo outing so wasn’t prepared for what he released. But, and I mean this kindly, Kensrue released an incredible Bruce Springsteen album.
My Favorite Albums in the Second Half* of 2015
The Best “Pop Worship” Album of 2015 – Bright Star, Aaron Strumpel.
I’ve been sort of listening to Aaron Strumpel for a few years now. His lyrics are great and his voice is unique but up until Bright Star I’ve had a hard time latching on to what he’s doing. I say “Pop Worship” lightly because it’s too broad of a definition. There’s been strong outings this year from Bethel, Hillsong, Tomlin, and other great big name bands with songs I’ve actually used in worship but there’s something musically and lyrically special about this one. It’s not as clean and accessable as those other albums but it’s much richer. This sounds how the Psalms feel. In fact, much of it is inspired by the Psalms.
The Best “Grown Ups Have Feelings Too” Album of 2015 – The Burning Edge of Dawn, Andrew Peterson
To understate it, towards the end of the summer and start of autumn I was particularly blue. I rode that wave through October when Andrew Peterson released this album. I wouldn’t say it healed me but the Holy Spirit used it in a major way (along with Psalm 42) to minister to me. Peterson’s musical, artistic, religious, and work ethos are aligned with my own as far as I can tell. This collection of songs, in a very grown up way, addresses life’s creaks and aches in a way that doesn’t reduce them to sensationalistic and ultimately shallow dramas. The language is rooted and earthy.
The Best “Seriously, Can You Guess How My Theology Informs My Politics?” Album of the Year – Brother, The Brilliance
The Brilliance are easily some of the best musicians in Christian music. These tunes are liturgical, radical, will challenge how you approach prayer, and just all around incredible. There’s some repeats from their earlier album which is why it took me so long to listen to it fully. But when I did I found some lyrics (I was already sold that the music was exceptional) that were in the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount and rooted in the liturgical language of the church. If we sang the title track in church I wonder what would happen. Anybody want to listen and weigh in?
The Best “My Hometown Library Wrote and Recorded an Album” Album of 2015 – Sermon On The Rocks, Josh Ritter
Josh Ritter is one of the best songwriters I’ve ever heard. Full stop. He’s exceptionally literate and that’s reflected in the lyrics. This album from beginning to end is laced with Biblical allusions, wit, good storytelling and more. Seriously though, it sounds like growing up in a well-read small town. Which, you know, that’s kind of my thing. These are the kind of songs I wish I was writing.
The Best “Music With a Message” Album of 2015 – Socially Just, NomiS
Where I think Raury failed above in being too preachy, I think NomiS succeeds. This is album is not just a call to action but it’s an actual call to something. The world is a broken place, marred by the curse of sin. The last thing anybody needs is cheap, overwrought hippy platitudes and on the other end of the spectrum we don’t need a 10 Step Plan to Being Better either. The music is as good as the message. The tune Love God, Love People is dope as hell. Go support my friend NomiS now!
And now, what you’ve all been waiting for…
My Absolute Favorite Albums of 2015 (Ranked)
10. Bright Star, Aaron Strumpel
9. Brother, The Brilliance
8. Home, Josh Garrels
7. The Burning Edge of Dawn, Andrew Peterson
6. Carrie & Lowell, Sufjan Stevens
5. I Love You, Honeybear, Father John Misty
4. Sermon On The Rocks, Josh Ritter
3. Socially Just, NomiS
2. Psalms, Sandra McCraken
1. The Phosphorescent Blues, Punch Brothers
Aside from Sandra McCraken (there’s an All Sons & Daughter’s cover) all the artists I mentioned in this list and my mid-year list are included in this playlist:
*Not necessarily released in the second half, but all the same…