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Now that most of the year's new releases have arrived, we wanted to publish a best-of list in time to offer suggestions for your Christmas shopping. You may wonder why we're reviewing the top 12 when most lists only offer the top 10. We'd love to say there's some deep spiritual reason, such as the 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 apostles of Christ, or the 12 days of Christmas. But the truth is we just wanted to be different, and it allows us the extra space to acknowledge what we consider to be the best albums of the year. So read through the reviews and make your list. No need to check it twice — you can't go wrong with these fine offerings!
Music Channel Co-Producer
Music Channel Co-Producer
Center Of My Universe
Michelle proves she's more than an ethereal artist singing in the clouds with her latest album. There's a good balance of the sound from her debut album to please the charter members of her fan club, and enough new material to draw in a broader base of listeners. If you can catch her live, do it. It's a great experience.
Nichole's 2nd album confirms she's one of Christian music's most intelligent songwriters. The music is beautifully written and the lyrics are challenging to anyone. It's not as edgy as her debut album, but this is still smart, well-crafted pop.
Rebecca St. James
Learning To Breathe
Rebecca has taken her distinctive sound and raised the level yet another notch. This album is more electronic sounding than ever, and it lends nicely to the energy of this project.
Switchfoot just gets better with each album. They sound more solid as a band on this one, and Jon Foreman's songwriting is stronger and catchier than ever. It'll leave you wondering how much they'll improve for their next album.
Live For You
Smell The Color 9
I was wrong to get think I'd be "MMM-bopping" to this album. I admit, I was expecting teeny-bop tunes, but one time through this album impressed me, the second time through impressed me even more, and the third time had me hooked. This album has shades of early Jaci Valesquez, and Crystal Lewis, and sounds as though it could be a soundtrack.
Chris once again offers profound ideas simply told through stories and musical illustrations. He also manages to broaden his sound beyond the simple folk pop he's known for. I'm okay with him not touring, as long as he keeps making wonderful albums like this.
Rebecca St. James
Jaci really does pop music well. But she's not just "ours" anymore, since the Latin market has discovered her as well. This album is proof that she knows how to utilize her Latin roots and combine that sound with pop music. She shows her musical maturity, and hits the mark with this album.
Rebecca continues to mature and amaze us all with her spiritual maturity and hook-laden music. This is easily her most dramatic and exciting work to date, featuring a skillful blend of beautiful strings, thick guitars and a solid, dense production.
The Maple Room
Live To Worship
Wayne is good. He really is. You probably know his work from numerous projects with your favorite artists. But perhaps you never knew his name. This is the album that people in the industry have been waiting for. If it's that anticipated by the artists, just imagine how much you'll like it.
An exciting modern worship album from a very gifted young songwriter and musician. It's a smart balance of original praise songs with some smartly interpreted covers of older classics. Also, Lincoln's an excellent guitarist with a great voice.
I find myself continuing to come back to this album time after time. With it's edgy worship and catchy tunes, it's a fine product from InPop Records.
These pioneers in modern praise & worship offer us another fine collection of fine worship tunes sure to be favorites in the years to come, all set to an exciting modern rock sound ala Radiohead and U2.
The Maple Room
These guys splash on the hot sauce and attack the songs on this project. The sound is fresh and exciting, the lyrics are clear and strong, and the Tex-Mex flavor will stay in your mouth (make that the songs in your head), for a good long time.
The songwriter behind so many well-known Christian songs finally released his first solo album this year, and it features more of his trademark witty and poignant lyrics. It's subtle, beautiful and intelligent pop music.
More than any other album in my collection, this one gives me new perspective on life and my spiritual walk. Nichole's lyrics, blended with her descriptive melodies, make sure this one doesn't fall into the "sophomore jinx" category.
As thrilling a modern worship debut as Delirious was years ago, or more recently SonicFlood. Well-written praise songs and superb musicianship reminiscent of early U2 combine to make arena rock at its finest.
Long Line of Leavers
City On A Hill
This album grew on me over a series of weeks, and now it's a permanent fixture. I kind of expected something different than what I found. But what they offered was much much better than I had expected. I've got to stop doing that!
This year's best multi-artist collaboration. Jars of Clay, Caedmon's Call, Sixpence, Third Day and others join to create a worship project that excels artistically and blends traditional worship with contemporary sounds.
Follow The Narrow
This one always finds its way into my CD player. The musicianship, the lyrics, and the quality are all stepped up from their solid debut album. I'm not surprised that it sold so well. Get to know Clear if you haven't already, and then e-mail me with a "thank you."
Very intelligent modern pop that grabs you in the gut, and a powerhouse voice. This album almost got looked over by mainstream music until she found Christian distribution. Simply put, Christian music needs more songwriters like Kendall Payne.
This was my first exposure to Kendall, but she's not a stranger to everyone. This Lilith Fair "veteran" has a long list of performances for someone so
young. She's just entering her 20's! This album has the quality of a
veteran release with enough variety to draw in listeners from across the
spectrum. Guys and girls will both love this one.
Mark may well become the next Michael W. Smith. Only time will tell, but his debut is filled with well-written pop tunes that measure up to the works of Smitty and Steven Curtis Chapman. Anyone who thinks this is simple pop music hasn't tried to play it on the piano yet.
Learning To Breathe
Long Line Of Leavers
This rock and roll could play on any secular station. Simply put, it's very well done. These guys have consistently raised the bar with each new project, and this latest offering won't disappoint. Take my advice, buy this CD.
I expected another good album from this popular folk/rock band. I didn't expect a great one that stretches beyond their folk sound. There's a little bit of something for everyone, and lyrically it all works to compare and contrast our earthly relationships with the everlasting one we share with God. I can't get this album out of my player!
Just a few more projects that didn't quite make our lists, but we agree that they should be on yours: Kaliedoscope Superiorby
Earthsuit, Sparrow Records Shine: The Hitsby
Newsboys, Sparrow Records Coming To Life
by The Normals, Forefront Records The Father's Song
byMatt Redman, Survivor/Sparrow Records Third Verse
by Smalltown Poets, Forefront Records Freedom
by Michael W. Smith, Reunion Records Offerings
Third Day, Essential Records Roaring Lambs
by Various Artists, Squint Entertainment