I review a broad range of music, but I tend to gravitate toward the CCM genre. Whether it’s because I tend to roll in circles where people speak about these artists, or due to my interest in how Christianity and secular culture collide, the music lands in my iTunes library and I happily listen to it. It’s been a pretty strong year in CCM-land, and there are some pretty terrific Christian artists out there who have what it takes to beat out Gaga and Grande on the charts. So, in an effort to highlight the best of what this genre has to offer, I decided to put together a list of some of my favorite CCM releases from the year. Here are just a few albums I have had the pleasure of listening to in 2014.
Wake Up The Wonder by Elevation Worship: It seems like every church in the western world is releasing music, and it’s easy to get excited about the next release without honestly assessing their quality. On hearing Wake Up The Wonder, I became excited to listen to worship music again. The tracks are bold and show a depth in lyrics other church bands can lack. A little organic, very alternative and wonderfully inspiring, this latest release from the North Carolina based church was good for my soul.
The Undoing by Steffany Gretzinger: The worship leader from Bethel Church released her solo debut earlier this year, and every single track blew me away. The light, husky tones of Steff immediately make you feel like you are in the middle of a warm hug, and there is a real calm and assurance that transcends each song. There are many female artists in the CCM genre, but Gretzinger stands out due to the originality of her vocals and music.
In A Breath by New Empire: I’m hesitant to place New Empire in the CCM genre simply because much like Switchfoot, their music is so well suited to the sound of the secular charts. In any case, the Sydney based band released their third album in 2014, and their alternative melodies and stirring lyrics didn’t disappoint. In A Breath is chock full of anthems and bold, convicting choruses. The highlight has to be the title track, telling the story of lead singer Jeremy Fowler after losing his mother to cancer. Simply put, this album is breathtaking.
RUN WILD.LIVE FREE.LOVE STRONG. by for KING & COUNTRY: This duo have been compared to Coldplay, and with good reason. Their bestselling album to date, the intentionality behind the instrumentation in each track and the vocal skills displayed make this release quite special. A pop/rock/synth take on CCM that took them to #13 on the Billboard Top 200 charts, the sheer honesty in the lyrics and their compelling delivery makes it one of the best releases of the year.
As Sure As The Sun by Ellie Holcomb: If you’re looking for a fresh sound in CCM, please give this album a listen. The piano based album is poignant and beautiful, and the folk sensibilities of her voice are simply gorgeous. Very much the product of a singer/songwriter, this crowd funded album balances the depth of human struggle with the hope we find in our faith.
What do you think of my choices? There have been some strong releases this year; Anomaly by Lecrae comes to mind, as well as Anchor by Colton Dixon; and Planetshakers are touring the world with their newest release, This Is Our Time. What have some of your favorite CCM releases been in 2014? Let us know in the comments below!