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.
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?