Favorite Music of 2016

One of the best decisions I made in 2016 for our family was re-subscribing to Spotify Premium. Our home is happier when we have music playing—it’s hard to have a bad attitude while singing. For us it’s worth every penny to have unlimited access to a wide variety of music. 

We are humans; were made to sing. 

I looked back over my Spotify playlists to pick out my favorite albums from 2016. These albums were not necessarily released in 2016, but are albums that I especially enjoyed this year. Here they are in no particular order. 

The Burning Edge of Dawn (Andrew Peterson). Peterson knows how to tell stories and can flat our write songs. For this 2015 release he went into the studio with just one song written and finished the rest while recording. Peterson’s knack for stirring up wonder and the imagination make for delightful listening. Some of my favorite lyrics from the album:

Someday the truth’s gonna lay us bare

We’re gonna raise a glass to the past and say

It’s only when the straight line breaks and heals a little crooked

That you ever see the grace

Well I had to find a better place; maybe the bend in the river’s the only way. 

We Will Survive

The Narrative (Sho Baraka). The Narrative is a tour of history and social consciousness blended with jazz, soul, funk, and hip hop. Musically, I really enjoyed his use of horns throughout the album. Lyrically, I appreciated how he tackled tough subjects, like race, without reverting to standard tropes. A few of my favorite lyrics:

Don’t marry her if you don’t plan to bury her

If you sweep her off her feet then learn how to carry her.

—Fathers, 2004

Also,

I hated the police until a brother got robbed

I hated welfare until a brother lost his job

When I’m a work, I watch my pockets for them corporate thugs

When I’m at home, I watch my back for those crips and bloods

If my words bring conviction, let’s call it context

I’m realizin’ life is pretty complex.

—Piano Break, 33 A.D.

And Glory Shone Around (The Rose Ensemble). This is a Christmas album for those tired of trite and trivial holiday fare. As the album’s subtitle states, it is a collection of early American carols, country dances, southern harmony hymns, and shaker spirital songs. Featuring familiar carols as well as unfamiliar tunes, And Glory Shone Around transports you to a different era, adding depth and new flavor to your holiday music. 

Brightest and best of the stars of the morning,

Dawn on our darkness and lend us thy aid.

Star in the east, our horizon adorning,

Guide where our infant redeemer was laid.

—Star in the East (American shape-note hymn)

Stories We Had Forgotten (The Ekklesia Band). Stories is a collection of old hymns that took me back to Sunday night services at my childhood Baptist church. Unlike some other recent old-hymns-to-new-music projects, this album featured mostly hymns I grew up singing a lot, adding a nostalgic appeal. 

He breaks the power of canceled sin,

He sets the prisoner free;

His blood can make the foulest clean,

His blood availed for me.

—O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing

The Ology (Sovereign Grace Music). The Ology is the soundtrack to the systematic-theology-for-kids book of the same name. Our family has enjoyed both the book and the music. The album teaches rich theology to kids (and adults!) through fun, engaging, and stylistically diverse music. My son’s favorite is The Scariest Song:

What’s the scariest of woes? Some say snakes and some say spiders 

What strikes terror to your toes? Some say floods and some say fires 

Some say dentist drills or creepy clowns, climbing up or falling down 

But I’ll tell you what’s the scariest around 

Sin–it’s the scariest, Sin hurts everyone 

Sin–how it hides in us, It’s all the wrong we’ve done 

It separates us from our God behind these prison walls 

Oh, sin is the scariest of all.

Glory to the Holy One (Jeff Lippencott and R.C. Sproul). Subtitled, Sacred Music for the People of God, this is an album of high church choral music. I love it as background, bedtime, or Sunday-morning-getting-ready-for-church music. The title track captures the glory of Isaiah’s vision of God:

Seated on the heav’nly throne 

Above all mortal view 

The King supreme in glory sat 

Bathed in resplendent hue

“Holy, Holy, Holy” 

Cried the seraph throng 

Glory to the Holy One 

Join in heaven’s song
—Glory to the Holy One

Genuine: The Alan Jackson Story (Alan Jackson). I listened to this monster 59-track anthology on a cross-country road trip in November. Living so far away, I love music that takes me back to my roots and reminds me of home. Alan Jackson does that just as well as anyone. 

It was just an old hand-me-down Ford

With three-speed on the column and a dent in the door

A young boy two hands on the wheel

I can’t replace the way it made me feel

And I would press that clutch

And I would keep it right

And he’d say, a little slower son you’re doing just fine

Just a dirt road with trash on each side

But I was Mario Andretti

When Daddy let me drive

—Drive (For Daddy Gene)

What were your favorite albums to listen to in 2016?

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