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Best Albums & Songs of 2017 (So Far)

posted: July 24th, 2017 by Dave Trout

We have called together the UTR Critics Panel to choose the music that most impacted them during the first half of 2017. We all have go-to favorites from years-gone-by, but it can be difficult (or overwhelming) to discover the best music being made today... which is why we are here to help. We hope this list gives anyone with discerning ears some a good place to start to find the latest in high-quality faith-inspired music.  (These are listed in no particular order.)

[Music qualified for consideration if it was released between 12/1/16 and 7/1/17 and is from a Christian songwriter/artist.]

BEST ALBUMS FROM 2017-A

  • Souvenir - Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors ("Thought-provoking; another masterful work from Drew Holcomb")
  • Modern Plagues - The Whistles & the Bells ("Alternative masterpiece in the making")
  • Call The Ships Home – The Asking ("Scripturally-rooted lyrics with fine folk production")
  • Songs of Lament - Rachel Wilhelm  ("The more you listen, the more you will understand why lament is a necessary part of life")
  • Ordinary Time - The Mosleys ("Rachel Mosely's voice shines on their exceptional first full-length album")
  • Unpathed Waters, Undreamed Shores - Staci Frenes  ("A musical voyage through all the doubt, fear, hope and faith that makes life worth living")
  • To Have You Around – Zach Winters  ("Layers of instruments, layers of vocals, sometimes sparse, and always pleasing to the ears")
  • Red Sea Road – Ellie Holcomb  ("Achingly beautiful, audaciously joyful, and deeply encouraging")
  • Fool (Live and Acoustic) - forBrothers  ("Solid production and superb vocals– especially those harmonies!")
  • Vanity - Brianna Gaither  ("Ambitious project using 10 producers on 10 songs that works gloriously")
  • Hope Where There Was None - Loud Harp ("Ambient & laid back music, paired with captivating vocals)"
  • Pull The Stars From The Sky – Jess Ray ("This sparse production is a gateway to authentic worship")
  • All is Not Lost - by The Brilliance ("Songs with a sense of hope and inspiration. Timely and thought-provoking")
  • A Lovely Wait – Nathan Partain - ("Challenging, encouraging, and packed with beautifully executed music")
  • Holding Onto Ghosts – The Zach Pietrini Band ("Vulnerable songwriting with an old-country grit")
  • How to Be Human - The Classic Crime  ("Another excellent release from the Classic Crime - songs about life and faith that resonate")  
  • Only the Lonely – Colony House - ("Pop gems loaded with substance about the struggles of road life and devotion to loved ones")
  • For Freedom II EP – Jenny & Tyler  ("Their second EP of cover songs, proceeds go to fight human trafficking")
  • Treasure of the Broken Land - Various ("The genius of Mark Heard continues to live with these impressive interpretations")
  • Lead Me Home – Jill Phillips ("Jill’s vocals breathe new soul into classic spirituals")
  • Daisy Chain – Erin  ("Masterful songwriting lyrically and musically on her debut EP")
  • Let Them Fall In Love - CeCe Winans ("Gospel in the tradition of the great R&B of the 60s -by a Gospel legend")
  • Labyrinth - David Baloche ("An impressive worshipful, creative, and meditative experience, with zero cheese")
  • People, People: Act 1 – The Orchardist ("These Nashville folk troubadours blend sounds reminiscent of Nickel Creek with playful, poetic lyricism")
  • A Better Word - Bethany Barnard ("A beautiful acoustic pop/folk offering on par with Sandra McCracken and Ellie Holcomb")
  • After All These Years - Brian and Jenn Johnson ("A worship experience with an ethereal tone")
  • Out of the Dust - Out of the Dust ("Great lyrics and voices that blend so well together")
  • Olive Branch - After Lake (Andrew Osenga) ("Osenga's skillful musicianship is on full display on this splendid instrumental side project")
  • Here Comes Trouble EP - The New Respects  ("The freshest, most relevant music heard from self-professed Christians in a long time")
  • Run to You – Allan Scott ("An impressive new artist")
  • Starlight - Bethel Music ("A stellar worship offering with an empowering theme of the Lord's Kingship reigning in our hearts")
  • Mortality - Alpha ("Brutal, ambient, disturbing")
  • In His Image - Chris Wilson ("Excellent deeply spiritual acoustic-driven tunes from this new artist")


BEST SONGS FROM 2017-A

  • "Getting My Hopes Up" – Christa Wells  ("A hand clapping, upbeat front porch tune that will have you singing along")
  • "Lonely" - Colony House ("Gritty, groovy, catchy, and a bit sad")
  • “The World’s Tip Jar” – Bill Mallonee  ("Speaks to the value of finding common ground and showing grace")
  • "Find You Here" – Ellie Holcomb ("Remember and celebrate your faith when you sing this song")
  • "Settle" – The Mosleys  ("A song of longing, hope and accepting the inevitable. One of the best of the year, thus far")
  • "Psalm 13" – Rachel Wilhelm ("This song will haunt you from the first listen. Best song of the first half!")
  • "You Were Not My People" – Nathan Partain ("A gorgeous song that takes a fresh look at God's relationship to man")
  • “Highway Life” – The Zach Pietrini Band ("Brutal honesty about dreams sometimes not coming true")
  • “Remembered For” - Colony House ("Weaves faith and values into their music with painstaking care and integrity")
  • "Red Sea Road" – Ellie Holcomb  ("Who doesn’t need to be reminded that we won’t walk alone in the midst of life’s troubles?")
  • "Barrabas" – Every King and Commoner ("Powerful song written from the viewpoint of Barrabas with killer vocals")
  • “Won’t Let Me Go” – John Tibbs ("Great power pop (with synth flair) and super catchy chorus")
  • "Mama’s Sunshine, Daddy’s Rain" – Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors ("A plucky, playful, and heartfelt ode to Drew’s young daughter")
  • "Oh Mercy" – Stu Garrard (ft. Matt Maher & Audrey Assad)  ("Shoots straight to the heart with words that offer a perfect response to God’s grace and mercy")
  • "Storms" – Staci Frenes ("Thought-provoking lyrics that uniquely challenge our human nature")
  • “Time’s Always Leaving” – The Lone Bellow ("If this song is any indication, their third LP should be amazing!")
  • "See the Love" – The Brilliance ("A prayer and balm for the soul in this uncertain time we live in")
  • "Fighting Words" – Ellie Holcomb ("Empowering and joyful, great for a little dose of encouragement")
  • "Cannot Do This Alone" – Colony House  ("A blend of a huge arena rock sound and vulnerable, personal lyrics")
  • "Sea Change" – Thrice ("Very different overall style for Thrice and nicely executed")
  • "River" –  Army Of Bones ("With hints of Delirious and Daniel Amos, this feels new and familiar at the same time")
  • "Common Sense" – The Orchardist  ("The tongue in cheek lyrics disguise a broken honesty highlighting this band's subtle brilliance")
  • "I’ve Seen Him Work" –  Anita Wilson ("One of the best Gospel tracks of the year")
  • "Let My Dreams Fly" – Stu Garrard (feat. Terrian Bass) ("A slow, mournful, and beautiful encouragement to endure the troubles of this present age")
  • “You Love Me Best” – Ellie Holcomb ("This track reveals that she’s a stunning storyteller and a brilliant lyricist")
  • “Revival” – Third Day  ("Full of soulful Southern rock goodness")
  • "Nearer Home" – Todd Agnew  ("A song about Heaven that isn't cheesy")

 

We hope this provides you lots of fresh, thoughtful, and poignant spiritual music to dive into.  You might make some brand new discoveries too.  Lists like these are always good discussion starters, so tell us below -- (a) What are the songs and albums from 2017(A) that you would have added to this list? - OR - (b) What albums or artists do you plan to dig into after reading this list? 

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