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Best Albums for First Half of 2012

posted: July 5th, 2012 by Dave Trout

At this halfway point of 2012, we want to reflect on what is shaping up to be a terrific year of gourmet music.  We have an esteemed 10-member panel of UTR critics - consisting of concert promoters, radio producers, artists, freelance writers, and even a record label manager. They have had their ear to the ground and have sent us some of their recommendations for the best albums to be released this year so far.  These are not in any specific order, but are all worth checking out.   [Albums must meet these 2 criteria to qualify for consideration: (a) released by an artist/songwriter with a Christian faith, and (b) was released between 12/1/11 and 6/1/12.]


Heart - Audrey Assad

The bar for 2012 was set high with this Feb. 14 release.  One of our critics said that this sophomore effort "takes Audrey's classy piano compositions and poetic lyrics to a new level and anchors them all in her beautifully ethereal voice.". Another critic couldn't give higher praise: "From start to finish, all twelve songs weave a tapestry that is artful, engaging, catchy, emotional, and after several listens and goose bump inducing moments, I am convinced that this is now my favorite album, ever."


Birds of Relocation - Eric Peters

Perhaps Eric Peters' greatest strength as a songwriter is to bear his soul in a vulnerable, translucent way.  2009's Chrome chronicled his inner struggles with disappointments, heartache, and longing for God's light to shine.  His 2012 release is showing how that hope has been realized as God has brought Eric to a new place.  A UTR panelist called this CD "one of Eric's most heartfelt and joyful offerings to date. All his signature honest lyricism is there, but there’s something extra buoyant in his melodies these days."


The Fourth Wall - The Vespers

These youngsters (Phoebe, Callie, Taylor, & Bruno) have turned a lot of heads with their sophomore project and have firmly put themselves on the gourmet music map.  Our critic Rachel said that The Fourth Wall "feels real and transparent - definitely fits the culture today."  Jeremy said this album has both "musical and spiritual depth." John said, "The Vespers are developing their own brand of Gospel-infused Americana that is as musically superb as it is spiritually challenging."



Current - Sarah Macintosh

She used to front the short-lived band Chasing Furies, and now she's one of the top breakout female vocalists.  One of our panelists calls this project "a terrific blend of worship, introspection, and smartly crafted electronic pop."  Another critic stated, "My favorite albums are the ones that continue to provide new revelations over time by savoring them this album has already done that for me. I'm sure it will continue to challenge, inspire and move me."


Let Us Rest - David Crowder Band

The double-disc final release from DC*B is one of the most ambitious good-byes we've ever seen from a band.  Our critic David W. agrees: "The message of their music is as strong as ever and I like the fact the album is sprawling and full of signature musical and theatrical 'asides' here and there. It can be a bit dense at times, but the payoff for the listener is worth it if they are willing to listen to it straight through and appreciate songs in the greater context of the album rather than skipping around."


Open Your Doors - Jenny & Tyler

With some intentional restraint on the production, this release showcases the amazing vocals of this talented husband & wife.  Our critic Amber called their 2012 effort "an album of personal experience, doubts, fears, and desire to trust in God." Rachel from our panel said, "As the title mentions, this album opens up an opportunity - an invitation." If you open the door to this album, you will be blessed with hymn-like lyrics and beautiful melodies that challenge us to abide with Christ.


Mercyland: Hymns For the Rest of Us - Various Artists

Phil Madeira is the ring-leader of this all-star cast who share songs that have a big spiritual bite.  UTR critic Andrew said, "Famed Nashville songwriter Phil Madeira (Alison Krauss, Garth Brooks) is enough.  Add Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, The Civil Wars, Cindy Morgan, The McCrary Sisters and on and on and you have more than enough. This record is an Americana dream." You'll be very happy to not let this one slip through the cracks.


Other top albums cited by our critics' panel:

  • Julie Lee & the Baby Daddies - Julie Lee
  • Season One - All Sons & Daughters
  • With Love - Rosie Thomas
  • The Loudest Sound Ever Heard - The Choir
  • Wounded Healer - The Followers
  • Overcome - Lara Landon
  • One Silver Needle - Arthur Alligood


Do you think our critics' panel picked out a good list?  Which of these will make our year-end list?  You'll find out when we crown the Top 11 Gourmet Albums of 2012 the last week of December.  Don't miss Episode #193 (releasing 7/6/12) where we feature many of our critics' picks of the best songs & albums over the last 6 months.


     (a) What are your general thoughts on what our critics panel got right or wrong with their recommendations?

     (b) What is your personal favorite album for the first half of 2012 (within the stated criteria), and why did it stand out to you?

Comments (30)

I heartily agree with the nomination of The Followers’ Wounded Healer. Great album!

besure 09:42 AM Thu, Jul 05, 2012

Good list.  I think the new High Street Hymns album coming out this fall will be list-worthy.

Jeff C 03:07 PM Thu, Jul 05, 2012

Good to see Eric Peters on the list! And Rosie Thomas has been a favorite for years. Good choices!

I must admit, thought, the album I’m looking forward to most is Andrew Peterson’s.

jonswerens 03:31 PM Thu, Jul 05, 2012

Just looked up Heart - Audrey Assad. Buying it now - amazing album! Can’t wait to listen to every word and note.

alisampm 03:43 PM Thu, Jul 05, 2012

Looking forward to the Audrey Assad album! Can hardly wait to get it!

missjewels20 04:36 PM Thu, Jul 05, 2012

Looks like 2012 will be another year for great music! My personal favorites so far this year that fit the criteria:

1) The Welcome Wagon - Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices
2) Bison - Quill
3) Jenny & Tyler - Open Your Doors
4) Rosie Thomas - With Love
5) The Followers - Wounded Healer
6) The Vespers - The Fourth Wall
7) Soul-Junk - 1961
8) Aaron Strumpel - Birds (may have been a December release, not sure)
9) Doug Burr - Trembling Lips and Pale Fingertips
10) mewithoutYou - Ten Stories

Other releases just outside my top 10:

All Sons & Daughters - Season One
Aaron Espe - Three
Branches - Thou Art the Dream

I haven’t heard the Mercyland Hymns album but it sounds like something I would love so I plan to check it out.

fillpower86 06:52 PM Thu, Jul 05, 2012

...and don’t forget:
Rain for Roots - Big Stories for Little Ones
Fantastic album for children!

fillpower86 06:59 PM Thu, Jul 05, 2012

Modification to my above post: I checked, and the Aaron Strumpel release was a 2011 release, so I’ll replace it with a great album I forgot about the first time around:
Laura Gibson - La Grande

fillpower86 07:20 PM Thu, Jul 05, 2012

Audrey Assad’s album is a lock on this list. Phenomenal lyrics and melodies fit her voice and soul-baring honesty. It’s a must buy.

Ecbntmkr 07:31 PM Thu, Jul 05, 2012

A good list. I resonate with most of these, especially the Vespers and Jenny and Tyler.

My top three favs of Indie/Christian artists from the first part of 2012 have been:

1. Young Oceans
2. Bison - Quill
3. Josh Harmony - Benefit of the Doubt

smallreflection 05:50 PM Fri, Jul 06, 2012

It’s not a bad list, but Andrew Osenga’s “Leonard the Lonely Astronaut” belongs here. It’s phenomenal.

Barber 08:05 PM Sat, Jul 07, 2012

The new Mathew Perryman Jones album Land of the Living is really good. It’s definitely worth a listen, if you haven’t already.

evenmoresteven 11:39 AM Mon, Jul 09, 2012

The new Welcome Wagon disc is very good.  I can’t wait to hear Rosie Thomas and the David Crowder Band releases.  It looks to be a very good year!

pastorjoseph 12:10 PM Sat, Jul 14, 2012

Great list.  Great music.

TJHouse 12:15 PM Sat, Jul 14, 2012

I don’t know if Starfield is considered too mainstream to be Under the Radar, but their album The Kingdom is the one I’ve listened to more than any other in 2012. Not a weak cut on the whole album.

HeyBC 12:15 PM Sat, Jul 14, 2012

Bought the Jenny & Tyler record this week on iTunes and it is wonderful.  The best one we have bought in a year.

GMG1999 12:22 PM Sat, Jul 14, 2012

Audrey Assad’s Heart and Jenny and Tyler’s Open Your Doors are my top picks from this list. I have overplayed both albums. A favorite of mine not on the list is Bethel Music’s newest Loft Sessions. Excellent choices overall!

Mariel11 12:23 PM Sat, Jul 14, 2012

Audrey Assad and David Crowder*Band have been on my heavy rotation list! Definitely been liking what I’ve heard from the Vespers too!

duckster004 12:39 PM Sat, Jul 14, 2012

Good list, but it seems to be missing The Shins, Of Monsters And Men, and The Welcome Wagon.

TheRealRobBirks 12:51 PM Sat, Jul 14, 2012

You really can’t go wrong with David Crowder. My personal favorite for the year so far is mewithoutYou’s “Ten Stories,” although I am really looking forward to “Wait For the Siren” from Project 86. Not a UTR-type band, but one of my favorites!

AW 12:55 PM Sat, Jul 14, 2012

My top albums from 2012 are:
1. Audrey Assad - Heart
2. Trent Dabbs - Future Like Snow
3. Matthew Perryman Jones - Land of the Living
4. Future of Forestry - Young Man Follow
5. The Vespers - The Fourth Wall
6. David Crowder - Let Us Rest
7. Sarah MacIntosh - Current

I haven’t heard Eric Peters album.  I’ll have to give it a try.  UTR always has great recommendations.  Also, I just went back & saw that the albums must have been released by June 1, 2012 & some of my top picks were just released, so technically they don’t qualify.  All of your picks are definitely top notch!  For some reason I didn’t quite get into the Jenny & Tyler release.  I still enjoy their music, but I don’t think it’s in my top picks.

avtsellers 01:26 PM Sat, Jul 14, 2012

Love David Crowder! Wondered why Andrew Peterson wasn’t listed but then saw it was the first half of 2012!

Janerichie 01:43 PM Sat, Jul 14, 2012

Especially fond of two from the list - Open Your Doors and Mercyland..

My personal favorite from the first half of this year? Matthew Perryman Jones’ album, Land of the Living. A true work of art. Transparently beautiful, it speaks into the journey of pain, loss, grief, and the tough places in life in such an honest way. Each time I listen I’m reminded that there’s light and hope, even in the darkest of circumstances.

bluesmimi 01:44 PM Sat, Jul 14, 2012

I recently found the Vespers and Jenny and Tyler thanks th UTR.  Thanks!

dsnapr 06:08 PM Sat, Jul 14, 2012

All of these are incredible. I didn’t know a couple before I read this, however, now they’re on my list of purchases! smile Thanks!

Tiffany Reece 09:21 PM Sat, Jul 14, 2012

Nice list. I only wish All Sons & Daughters had made the top 7. Hadn’t heard Mercyland or Sarah Macintosh. Good stuff.


Chris Oakes 11:25 PM Sat, Jul 14, 2012

Good list.  I have about half of them, and definitely need to check out the rest.  Jenny & Tyler’s is my favorite in quite some time.  Love those harmonies and the hymn-like lyrics.

jonmarc 04:43 AM Mon, Jul 16, 2012

Just a quick note that several albums suggested in the comments (The Welcome Wagon, Trent Dabbs, Matthew Perryman Jones, etc) were released after 6/1/12 which was after our window for consideration.  We’ll see in late December if those make it onto our final list of the “Top 11 Gourmet Albums of 2012”.

@Barber - Even though A.Osenga’s “Leonard” had a pre-release window, per his publicists’ request, we upheld Sept. 25 as the official release date—so that explains why it wasn’t mentioned.

Dave Trout 11:57 AM Mon, Jul 16, 2012

b.) As far as my favorite cd of the year that fits inside the criteria, I’d say either The Vesper’s 4th Wall, Beautiful Eulogogy’s Satellite Kite, or SONS’s Keep Quite!

The Vesper’s 4th wall will definitely be in my top 10 favorites any genre for the year and audrey assad’s heart in my top 20. I still need to check out Jenny&tyler;‘s new one.

Lindsey W. 11:49 AM Wed, Jul 18, 2012

I may or may not have listened to every song, bought almost every song, if not the entire album of the above list smile

The Vespers, especially, are speaking to my life right now..

netwindscritic 08:53 PM Wed, Jul 18, 2012

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