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Best Albums & Songs of 2016 (So Far)

posted: June 23rd, 2016 by Dave Trout

The Critics Panel choices of the music that most impacted them during the first half of 2016 reveal a number of artists new to Under the Radar's "Best of" lists. This, in addition to artists already familiar to us, truly reflects the breadth of quality art being produced today by Christian musicians. Sometimes, the hard part is just finding these gems... so we make it easy for you. We think Bono would do well to investigate the music presented here, and we hope you will too! We're confident that you will be pleased with what you find.  (These are listed in no particular order.)

[Music qualified if it was released between 12/1/15 and 6/1/16, and was created by a Christian artist/songwriter.]


  • The Holding Pattern - Maron Gaffron ("Jaw dropping vocals with a retro blues-rock-gospel feel - not to be missed!")
  • Ghost of a King - The Gray Havens ("A stirring collection of songs with folk sensibility and rich, layered soundscapes") 
  • Til The Song Is Sung - Sarah Hart ("Be warned, these songs could change your life")
  • Inheritance - Audrey Assad ("An elegant, reverent, and fresh take on hymns popular and lesser known")
  • Fault Lines - Andy Gullahorn ("A master class in the art of musical storytelling")
  • Just Crazy Enough - SHEL ("One of the most creatively diverse projects you’ll hear this year")
  • Passenger - Deni Gauthier ("Number one hidden gem of the first half - poignant songs about life and family")
  • One Wild Life: Spirit - Gungor ("High-concept rock with deep soul to spare") 
  • Blood Red Blooms - Brettan Cox ("Excellent execution on these spiritually deep tracks")
  • Wow to the Deadness - Steve Taylor & the Danielson Foil ("Truly nothing else like this in the gospel music spectrum")
  • Light and Bloom - Holly Ann ("Nearly perfect alt-pop with non-clichéd spiritually insightful lyrics")
  • Songs For The Late Ride Home - Anchor & Braille ("Sophisticated as well as worshipful")
  • The Eternal Son - Rivers & Robots ("Bucks any concept of cookie-cutter worship music")
  • Dead Man Walking - John Tibbs (“An honest record sharing the hope that he has found despite struggles")
  • Look to Jesus: Indelible Grace VII – Indelible Grace Music (“The remarkable quality and originality of their retuned hymns over nine releases and sixteen years continues”)
  • The Revival (Live) - Cory Henry ("An incredible live Hammond B-3 Gospel record")
  • The Narrow Sea - Erik Nieder ("Does not disappoint")
  • Overwhelmed - Garrett Vandenberg & Katelynn Florke ("Great instrumentation, beautiful vocals")
  • Heel - Dogs of Peace ("Blending a classic rock foundation with modern alternative sensibilities")
  • Love Makes Us Strong - Onething Live ("Eternal love of Jesus is beautifully expressed in these compelling songs") 



  • "There Is a Balm in Gilead” – Giants & Pilgrims ("Powerfully presents 28 descriptions of God’s healing at work")
  • “I Want to Be Well” – Andy Gullahorn ("Extraordinary song describing addiction - required listening for all believers")
  • "Diamonds and Gold" - The Gray Havens ("A risky song, the band's biggest departure, 100% pop – and it 100% works!")
  • "No Excuses" - Needtobreathe ("Promises great things for the band’s upcoming release")
  • "Hard to Die" - Out of the Gray ("Potent track by the veteran husband and wife duo about losing your life to find it")
  • "Holy Holy Holy" - Audrey Assad ("Audrey Assad singing like only she can")
  • "Lights in The Sky" - Clay Kirchenbauer ("Exquisite, thoughtful writing with brilliant production portraying the length and depth of God's love for us")
  • "Further" - Griffin House ("A from the guts song about experiencing doubt")
  • "Let Bad Religion Die” - Gungor ("Thoughtfully criticizes those who mischaracterize God’s will")
  • “Go to Dark Gethsemane” – Rachel Wilhelm and Friends (“This reworked hymn will give you chills.”)
  • “Healed” - Dogs of Peace ("Plainly worded but smartly written")
  • "Raining Pouring" - John Tibbs ("A catchy tune with great instrumentation and vocals")
  • "Gangland" - Lecrae and Propaganda ("The amazing, challenging, and lyrically brilliant Propaganda is a highlight")
  • "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet" - Audrey Assad ("Audrey's rendition is haunting and beautiful")
  • “Money & Fame” - Needtobreathe ("Rock n’ roll edge and a jazzy, 70’s style groove.")
  • “This Is Love” - Sanctus Real ("Closely resembles the sophisticated Brit pop of Elbow, Coldplay, or Peter Gabriel") 
  • “Lean on Me” - Consumed by Fire ("Connected to the two greatest commandments from Jesus to us")
  • “Your Love Awakens Me" - Phil Wickham ("A very catchy, emotive and worshipful musical style")  

And now want to hear from YOU! Do you agree or disagree with the panel? And, most importantly, do YOU have additions to this list to share with the panel and the other UTR listeners?  [Remember, we're specifically looking at albums released prior to 6/1/16 -- which is why releases by Eric Peters, Jason Gray, et al, were not cited above.]

Comments (4)

Note that the Rachel Wilhelm song “Go to Dark Gethsemane” is on her record A Kindling Glance and is available on her Bandcamp page -

Larry S 01:48 PM Fri, Jun 24, 2016

Have to agree with the selections (at least the ones I’ve heard so far..).  Wondered if Bill Mallonee’s Slow Trauma or Phil Maderia’s Motorcycle or Original Sinner were considered for inclusion?  All in all, 2016 is off to a good start..  Thank you for bringing some of these lovely artists to our collective attention.

MidWestSeive 07:51 AM Mon, Jun 27, 2016

Bill Mallonee’s Slow Trauma, and Phil Madeira’s Motorcycle and Original Sinner are all excellent in my opinion. Each critic gets a limited number of picks which can make it difficult to be included in the list. There are always some notable records left out.

Larry S 10:33 PM Sat, Jul 02, 2016

So glad to hear Out of the Grey featured in this episode- I’ve been hoping some of the tracks from their new project would make it on the podcast. I love “The Distance”- made me cry when I first heard it.

NicoleVZ 05:54 PM Fri, Jul 08, 2016

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