By the staff and senior music and entertainment editors at www.watchgmctv.com
2011 has been an exciting year on the music front, which makes this year’s ‘Best of the Best’ list even more difficult to create. But after mind-splitting deliberation and tug-of-war back and forth between Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, Atlanta – and whatever airport Andy Argyrakis is barreling through – at long last we’ve landed on our favorite albums of 2011.
Now... this is by no means is this a comprehensive list of the many exciting, well executed, and radio worthy Gospel and Christian projects of the year – such a collection would be a mile longer than the holiday traffic jam you’ve been sitting in.
But we’ve certainly put a lot of brain power and spin-time into arriving at 10 standout, critical releases of the year. And then, because we couldn’t help it, we consoled ourselves with the ‘Honorable Mentions’ list.
So... with all due disclaimers aside, www.watchgmctv.com presents (in alphabetical order) 2011: The Best of the Best.
The City Harmonic
I Have a Dream (It Feels Like Home)(Kingsway)
There is nothing in Christian music that sounds like this. So, so incredibly good! In the still-saturated world of worship, this album was a breath of fresh air. There's a fresh verve and energy in these vertically minded songs, and their obvious passion for God is downright contagious. —CB, LW
The Journey (Riverphlo)
Andrae Crouch again demonstrates why his songs have, for decades, crossed cultural boundaries and impacted the hearts of people across the globe. Somehow, he manages to remain relevant while progressing the genre for everyone. —EJG, MRC
Invisible Empires (Fair Trade/Columbia)
Given her previous work, a new Sara Groves album comes with a ton of expectations, especially from a lyrical standpoint. But Invisible Empires may be her loveliest album yet as she explores the tension of loving God and our fellow man in our broken world. —CB
Church On the Moon (Verity)
We simply can’t say enough about Deitrick Haddon. An artist who transcends on many levels, he’s best thing that has happened to Gospel music in a long time. He’s everywhere: NAACP Image Awards, The Stellars, Doves and BET Awards, and Church on the Moon is just the beginning of what’s in store for those who love innovative, modern gospel. —TW, MRC
Young Love (Universal Republic)
This is by far the best album of Mat Kearney's career. Every single song is contagiously fun, and his thoughtful writing has never been better with insanely catchy songs that exalt the beauty of life. And we love that Mat wasn't afraid to do a little spoken word/rap again.
New Day (Spring Hill)
After taking time off to focus on family and start solo careers, Joyce Martin-Sanders, Jonathan Martin, and Judy Martin-Hess (best known collectively as The Martins) return to deliver their first studio CD in eight years. Produced by Jay DeMarcus, The Martins emerge to marry their incredible southern sound with a newfound pop flavor. —JB, DEP
Something Big (Columbia)
The sister duo released one of the best albums of their career, timely inspirational messages laced with mainstream pop and urban influences that, together, create this modern gospel masterpiece. These women are a force to be reckoned with, and we can’t wait to see where the road leads. —EJG, MRC
The Reckoning (Atlantic)
The 2011 Dove Award winner for ‘Group of the Year,’ these outsiders have taken their faith-based roots rock to one of the biggest tours in the country, Taylor Swift. But they don’t stop there, with a sound that just keeps evolving, songwriting skills and a buffet of instrumentation that keeps things fresh. —CB, MRC
Until We Have Faces (Provident)
Two-time GRAMMY-nominated RED returns to explore the emotions people fight to find their identity in this world. Drawing from the ideas of C.S. Lewis, RED engages in a relentless ride, directing feelings of loss, hopelessness and anger into confidence and discovery. RED’s own process of re-discovery and maturity clearly translates, making this one unforgettable rock experience. —JC, AA
Vice Verses (Atlantic/EMI)
For most bands, a big commercial breakthrough is typically the veritable nail in the coffin of future creativity. It's like nothing can top those songs that broke through to the masses. For Switchfoot, however, the band has only gotten better in my humble estimation. Not only has Jon Foreman's songwriting dug deeper than ever before, but the accompanying soundtrack is an adrenaline-fueled ride that never gets old. Plus, I love how they weren't afraid to strip some of shiny veneer off a few tracks for creativity. Great stuff all around. —CB
With Shivering Hearts We Wait (INO)
Aside from releasing an EP in 2007, it had been six long years since Blindside released a proper studio CD. But the band solved that problem in spades with the bone-crunching With Shivering Hearts We Wait, which retains the group’s aggression under an amazingly creative layer of pop sensibility, thanks in part to the production of Howard Benson. —AA
Hello Fear (Gospo Centric)
Forever the trendsetter, Kirk Franklin again progresses the genre of gospel music like only he can. Marked by a year of successful touring surrounding this excellent music, Kirk's career shows no signs of slowing and fans are simply eager for more. —EJG
Ghosts Upon The Earth (Brash Music)
Gleaning inspiration from a prayerful visit to Assisi, followed by becoming a parent, has given Gungor some of the most powerful songwriting experiences of his career thus far. Original from start to stop, this innovative collection is padded out with 17 players, four additional vocalists, a six-member string section and a boy’s choir. —AA
You Got My Attention (Fervent)
Maclean's refreshing debut is both stylish and sassy. Her vocal range is unmatched, and her lyrics are poignant. She’s got my attention. The girl can sang! Love her songs, love her voice, love the fact that Christian music has another female artist that is too legit to quit. —TW, LW
Karen Peck and New River
Reach Out (Daywind)
When she appears with Dolly Parton next year in the film “Joyful Noise,” the world will find out what Southern Gospel fans have known all along. Karen Peck is incredible! Every new album gets better and better. —DEP
Response (Fair Trade/Columbia)
A truly underrated talent that's only gotten better for album to album. I love his voice and the vivid turns of phrase that point to the utter wonderfulness of the God we serve. —CB
Now it’s your turn! We’re ready for it! Tell us what you think... What should’ve made the list and didn’t? Which of your favorites made the list? What would this list look like if you compiled it? We want to know!
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