Sounds like … Sarah McLachlan, Anna Nalick, Nichole Nordeman, Sara Groves, Jennifer Knapp, and other artists with a knack for thoughtful, accessible singer/songwriter stuffAt a glance … Albertine proves it is possible to strike the perfect balance between art and faith, while still remaining accessible to both sides of the Christian-mainstream divideTrack Listing Shadowfeet Deciphering Me Love, Where Is Your Fire? Love Is Waiting Albertine C.S. Lewis Song Epilogue Faithful Seeds Hosea's Wife The Thief Hymn

For the millions of ardent Hillsong United fans, Brooke Fraser needs no introduction. She's been the best-kept secret of the popular modern worship group since their 2006 album United We Stand, for which she penned the lovely "None But Jesus." Since then, she's remained actively involved with the band, touring the world and writing some of the most stirring choruses to come from the entire Hillsong camp, including "Hosanna," "Lead Me to the Cross," and "Lord of Lords."

Interestingly, Fraser was a best-selling recording artist in her native New Zealand before she even took on ministry duties at the Australian megachurch. In her country, she's a multi-platinum selling star, moving hundreds of thousands of copies of her first two albums, What to Do with Daylight and Albertine, the latter of which was just released in American soil.

What's striking about Fraser is how well she's able to reconcile her beliefs with her singer/songwriter side. A worship leader at heart, Fraser can't help but write songs addressed directly to God, but in a way that's at once artistic, prayerful, and introspective. Such is the case with the peculiarly titled first single, "Shadowfeet," a melodically rich song that ponders heaven with the thoughtfulness of a Nichole Nordeman, but with the piano-based panache of a Sarah McLachlan.

With titles like "Hosea's Wife," "Hymn," "C.S. Lewis Song," and "Faithful," it's clear where Fraser's motivations come from, but don't mistake this for cookie-cutter Christian music. Fraser knows her way around a good lyric, and she delivers them with conviction while sidestepping lazy clichés. Perhaps inspired by her travels with an itinerant worship ministry, Fraser also has a heart for social justice, as reflected in the poignant, thought-provoking title track.

Musically, Fraser has the alternative adult contemporary sound boiled down to a science: if Lilith Fair were still around, she would be totally at home. It's a pensive, understated style—a far cry from Fraser's sweeping, larger-than-life church repertoire. But for the eloquence of her ruminations, the demureness is an ideal conduit. Ultimately, it's the remarkable balance between faith and art which makes Albertine not only an outstanding album, but one of the year's best releases.

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