Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top Ten Favorite Albums and songs of 2016

In 2016, it seems like all of my favorite musical artists teamed up and agreed to release new content for this travesty of a year.

Lets be honest, for us art loving humanists 2016 was a complete and total crap show. From the terrorist assault on the LGBTQ+ community via the Pulse night club massacre in Orlando Florida, to the embarrassment of an election process we were all subjected to. From the deaths of Alan Rickman, David Bowie and so many others to the Trump presidency, which I know isn't bad news for any of my straight, white, male friends out there, but is pretty concerning for most other demographics of people. There was a bright and shining star in 2016: Art. From movies to music to books, 2016 has been an outstanding year in people creating art. So, in the spirit of faithfulness to my obsessive need to make lists, here are my top ten favorite albums of 2016, with some honorable mentions.


As usual, keep in mind that this is a personal favorites list, not a subjective best list. I'm picking based off of what resonated with me the most. So if my opinion makes you angry feel free to seek your vindication by making your own list.







10. Hamilton: Mixtape
Image result for hamilton mixtape

There are a few fans of the Broadway soundtrack who didn't love this, I am not one of those people. This album (which is a cover of the original soundtrack) features some of the best in the business: Sia, Busta Rhymes, The Roots, Queen Latifah, Chance The Rapper, Common, Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Ben Folds, Jimmy Fallon and many, many others contribute to what can only be called an event of an album.

Three Favorite Tracks:


3.  You'll Back. Jimmy Fallon and The Roots


2. Dear Theodosia (reprise). Chance The Rapper and The Lights

1.Wait For It. Usher










9. Needtobreathe. Hard Love
Image result for needtobreathe hard love

Needtobreathe has been one of my favorite bands for years, and their latest effort only solidifies their status in my mind. They venture into new territory here adding electronic elements to their art, while never losing their pension for folk songs, ballads and rock 'n roll. This is such an accomplished album.



 Top 3 Songs and Lyrical Highlights

3. Money and Fame 
"What do you kids wanna know about now?
I made enough to make a young gun proud
Money and fame bring a man to shame
Ain't no doubt about it"


 2. Hard Love

"Trading punches with the heart of darkness
Going to blows with your fear incarnate
Never gone until it's stripped away
A part of you has gotta die to change

In the morning you gon' need an answer
Ain't nobody gonna change the standard
It's not enough to just feel the flame
You've gotta burn your old self away."


1. Testify

"Give me your heart, give me your song
Sing it with all your might
Come to the fountain and you can be satisfied
There is a peace, there is a love
You can get lost inside
Come to the fountain and let me hear you testify"












8. Lecrae. Church Clothes 3.
Image result for church clothes 3

Lecrae never ceases to impress me. As I've changed and moved along in my faith, not a lot of Christian artists I used to listen to do it for me anymore. But it seems like Lecrae has done his own changing and moving along. Lecrae has been a vocal advocate for Black Lives Matter and criminal justice reform, and he has taken flack from the Evangelical community for not "sticking to the bible." This album is his response to that, and it is raw. Whether he is addressing his haters in Misconceptions 3, or giving white America a history lessons on the "evil" Crips and Bloods in Gangland, Lecrae sends a brave and passionate statement about who has become and why he's here; and it's beautiful.



 Top 3 Songs and Lyrical Highlights


3. Misconceptions 3

"Look, I was created to make a statement
A sentence sent us to earth on this mission
Tryna make a way for my siblings
Brothers and sister who drinkin'
Out of them cisterns with cracks in 'em"

2. Freedom

 "I'm out here chasin' this freedom
They out here choppin' my feet off
And if they catch me I'm Toby, but I ain't 'bout to believe it
King Kunta, king of coonin' or Kenan and Kel
Rather rot in a jail cell than be up in hell."



1. Gangland

"What's a reasonable man to say?
There's a school in Alabama named after Robert e. Lee and it's 89% black, you don't see the irony?
What it do to a pysche, it's simple,you don't like me, what I'm 'posed to do now?
Delusional calling that system criminal justice, where the rich and guilty are safer than the poor and innocent
Why would we listen?
When American scuff they Toms on our brothers dead bodies as they march to stop gay marriage,
We had issues with Planned Parenthood too, we just cared about black lives outside the womb just as much as in."










7. Runaway Symphony: American Blood

Image result for runaway symphony american blood

This is indie rock at their best. In 2013 they released their debut album Running South, which I loved, and this year they outdo themselves. These Christian mystics spend the entirety of the album musing about American origins conquest and American religion, and finding a redemptive story within it all. This album spoke to me on a very personal and important level: The Christian story is not an American story, and the American story is not a Christian story. True religion and faithfulness lies in discerning between the two, and prioritizing aptly. It is raw and real and full of the wonderful quarks that make for a solid indie rock album.




  Top 3 Songs and Lyrical Highlights

3. A New World (Reprise)

"I will follow you into the night
I will hold your banner high
I will leave all I’ve known at these gates
Somewhere far, a new world waits

Beyond the borders and blood of America
I believe there is a better place
Where our sorrows and pain shall be overcome"



2. Epitaph

"If we’re history

If we are temporary

Then youth and gold and glory are our only hopes



But if there’s something after

this scrambling to matter

I can live for more than just myself alone



Our time will pass

but some things last

Let our bravery leave our mark

Let our love be our epitaph"

1. A Robe Upon A Ghost

"Give the silhouette a name

When simple speech can only trace the form

Of what mortal breath cannot contain

And tired tongues could toil forevermore

And tell the timeless tale in vain...

Then You came like a whisper

And gave a Name to that unspoken Word

Like a robe upon a ghost, you hid yourself in rags

But I know who you are

I know who you are"









6. Thrice. To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere
Image result for thrice to be everywhere is to be nowhere

Going on hiatus in 2011 after their phenomenal album Major/Minor, Thrice made a much anticipated and triumphant return this year. Returning to their metal roots, lead singer and lyricist Dustin Kensrue writes one of their most raw album in a long time, and lyrically maybe the best of the year. Tackling the controversy of war, holding on to the foolishness of faith in the midst of doubt, and digging for some semblances of hope. This is a real mans struggle with doubt and feelings of defeat, and it is hard some times to hear. That's not to say this is a faithless or hopeless album. It is not saying there is no God, only that the Divine often times feels hidden and ambiguous, a feeling any person of faith can relate to. Take the song, The Window, for example: Although the existence of God cannot be empirically proven, Dustin finds evidence for the Divine all around and the light, music, and wind in this song represent those signs of God’s existence and revelation to humans. At one point in the song he’s surprised now to find his own voice seeking to invalidate any evidence he sees, to demoralize his heart with fear, and to thoroughly crush his spirit. The musical change in these lines and the distorted vocals intensify this feeling of violation. However, the song ends on a note of hope. It's honest and dark and it doesn't rob God of due mystery. Like Jon Foreman, Dustin writes about the mysteries of the Divine in a way that feels like the most authentic kind of worship. This album showed me I had no idea how much I missed this amazing band.


 Top 3 Songs and Lyrical Highlights 

3. The Long Defeat

 "The suffering that I see all around
It's enough to keep me crashing down till I
I lie wrecked and reeling from these falls

Still I believe there's a word in the wire
And I believe there's a way through the fire
And I believe there's joy that blooms beyond these walls.

So keep holding on to hope without assurance
Holding on to a memory of light
But will the morning come?
For all I know we’ll never see the sun
But together we’ll fight the long defeat"


2. Death From Above

"One day, one day they sent me to the chaplain
When I said I can't go on.
And all he said, and all he said was just to shut my mouth
And "do the will of God"

But I am never sure who I am killing
How many innocents were in that building?
I dropped death out of the-
No longer human beings, No longer people
Just targets on the screen none of its real...
I dropped death out of the sky... tell me why!"

1. The Window

"There's nothing I can say- There's no way I can prove
That there's a place beyond this room
But still there's something in the way the light comes shining through
And in the way the curtains move."













5. Gungor. One Wild Life: Spirit

 Image result for one wild life spirit

Part 2 of their One Wild Life trilogy proved one of their best. While One Wild Life: Soul was my favorite of the three, it was released last year. Spirit, however, was no disappointment. Michael Gungor, writer of "Friend of God" and other super conservative church songs, here he delivers a profound and prophetic statement on the nature of faith and religion. While Michael is a Christian, and it shows in this album, he is not afraid to call out the followers of the Prince of Peace for acting like they are the followers of the Prince of Power and Control.


 Top 3 Songs and Lyrical Highlights


3. Hurricane

"I see hate Building up all of these walls 
Turns family into enemy 
What do we do with it?
 I see love rising like a hurricane 
Rising like a dead man coming up out of the grave
 I feel love rising in my chest again 
Rising like a burning sun into the day 
I see a world 
Aching and longing to be 
All of it's wars over and gone 
In peace finally"



2. We Are Alive

"Come to the water if you're thristy 
Drink of the river cold and deep 
Whatever may come
All are welcome
 Every saint and sinner free"
 
1. Let Bad Religion Die

"If all the outsiders are wrong
If your questions don't belong
If your doubt is called a sin
And you're not to search within
Let it go, open your eyes

Let bad religion die
Let bad religion die
All belief demanding blood
If your god gives you a gun
Let bad religion die
Let bad religion die
If it spreads violence more than peace
God let religion cease"












4. Relient K. Air for Free

Image result for Air for Free

This was the most unexpected favorite of the year for me. All through middle and high school Relient K was one of my favorite bands. Then I saw an MTV interview where Matt Thiesen avoided saying Jesus was the Son of God, and my judgemental piety simply wouldn't allow myself to lend them my fandom. Then I bought tickets to a Switchfoot show they just happened to be playing at. I decided to check them out. This year they released an album that is chalk full of the quirky, pop-rock antics we love them for, but they also have produced a profound exploration of doubt and faith and coming-of-age. This is the most I have loved them in a decade.



 Top 3 Songs and Lyrical Highlights

3. Bummin'

Broken downtown down on Wedgewood & 8th
And I'm bleeding like a heartache get ready to break
And then on down the road comes another mistake
Try hard as I might, I can't quite get it right

I'm bummin'!

2. Prodigal

"Wish it was simple but it's trouble to say
Cause nobody believes that there's a debt to be paid
For the things that come easy day after day
Week after week

I am the champion of wine
You're the bread on my tongue
I am the last one in line
The prodigal son"



1. God

"I believe in night, I believe in day
And I believe there's a light coming back around again
And I believe you're right cause I believe there's a way
And I believe I might have some catching up to do

The voices are growing strong
The rumbling of thunder a rolling drum
Let Your Kingdom come

I believe in God, I believe in God
And I believe that I, I believe enough
So help me God
I believe in love and I believe in us
And I believe the sky was made for me to touch
I believe the sky was made for me to touch"












3. Beyonce: Lemonade



Image result for beyonce lemonade

As if she knew that 2016 was going to become a trash can of the year (and maybe she did, Queen Bey knows all), Beyonce surprised the world with the visual album. And it is a visual album, the only way to experience this fully is to watch the visual presentation. It is art in the deepest sense of the word. Through this album, Beyonce invites us to step into the shoes of a heartbroken black woman in America, and it is powerful. After watching this, I was drying my eyes and completely speechless. Believe the hype, this is a masterpiece.

 Top 3 Songs and Lyrical Highlights 

3. Daddy Lessons

"With his gun, with his head held high
He told me not to cry
Oh, my daddy said shoot
Oh, my daddy said shoot
With his right hand on his rifle
He swore it on the bible
My daddy said shoot
Oh, my daddy said shoot
He held in his arms
And he taught me to be strong
He told me when he's gone
Here's what you do
When trouble comes to town
And men like me come around
Oh, my daddy said shoot"



2. Sand Castles

"And your heart is broken
Cause I walked away
Show me your scars
And I won't walk away
And I know I promised that I couldn't stay
Every promise don't work out that way
Every promise don't work out that was"


1. All Night Long


"My love was stronger than your pride
Beyond your darkness I'm your light
You get deep you touch my mind
Baptize your tears and dry your eyes"





2. Chance The Rapper. Coloring Book

 Image result for chance the rapper coloring book

 Arguably the most important album of the year, maybe even the decade thus far, Coloring Book is a towering achievement. Chance The Rapper tells with full disclosure his passion for God, his woman, his child and his struggles. This is a fully unique and spiritual experience, and easily the best, and most surprising, worship and hip-hop album of the year. Whether he is singing with Kanye and Justin Bieber, or he's covering a Chris Tomlin worship song, Chance The Rapper has gifted us a treasure that will be around for a long time.


 Top 3 Songs and Lyrical Highlights

3. All We Got

 "I get my word from the sermon 
I do not talk to the serpent
 That's the holistic discernment 
Daddy said I'm so determined 
Told me these goofies can't hurt me 
I just might make me some earl tea 
I was baptized like real early 
I might give Satan a swirlie"
 
2. Blessing

 "Jesus' black life ain't matter, 
I know I talked to his daddy 
Said you the man of the house now, look out for your family 
He has ordered my steps, gave me a sword with a crest"

1. How Great.

 "From a lofty height we wage war 
On the poltergeist with the exalted Christ 
Spark the dark with the pulse of light 
Strike a corpse with a pulse of life"




Before naming my top pick, I wanted to take a second to list some honorable mentions. This is in no particular order. Some of these may be objectively better than what I have on my list, however, as with movies, if it didn't speak to me as much, it didn't make it. Music martyrs can make their own list and feel vindicated. This was a amazing year for music, so here are some honorable mentions.


 Image result for poets and saints all sons and daughters





Image result for reflection derek minor    Image result for one wild life body




Image result for Life of pablo  Image result for josh garrels the light came down



Image result for propaganda selected songs  Image result for dustin kensrue thoughts that float on a different blood



Image result for rend collective campfire 2
















1. Switchfoot. Where The Light Shines Through

Image result for where the light shines through

Anybody surprised by this? I make no claims that this is the objective best album of the year, only that it was the album I needed most this year. Earlier this year, at the height of what can only be called an existential crisis of faith, Switchfoot released this album, and it was salve on the wound. Jon Foreman explores the themes of doubt and faith, tranquility and entropy, darkness and light, disrepair and joy with effortless lyrical mastery. The rest of the crew are in top form, demonstrating beautiful and tragic musicality that speaks directly to the parts of me that love music most. I may or may not have ugly cried the first time I listened to "Won't Let You Go," so, yeah... it's good.


Top 3 Songs and Lyrical Highlights

3. Hope Is The Anthem

"Sometimes what you need is what you fight
Like a wounded man out on the run
Like shadows hiding from the light
But your love is what I was running from

Hope's a seed you have to sow
When you let it go it comes to life
So you stretch your arrows on the bow
And you pull them back and watch them fly

My heartbeat, my oxygen
My banner, my home
My future, my song
Your hope is the anthem of my soul"



2. The Day That I Found God

"Where is God out in the darkness?
'Cause the voices in my head ain't talkin' honest
Sayin' maybe you made us then forgot us,
But that ain't You...

And all I know is I still don't know a lot
I don't know how it ends, I'm in the middle of this plot
I found grace for the man that I am not
I found out the day I lost myself
Was the day that I found God."


1. Won't Let You Go


"When it feels like surgery
And it burns like third degree
And you wonder what is it worth?
When your insides breaking in
And you feel that ache again
And you wonder
What's giving birth?
If you could let the pain of the past go
Of your soul
None of this is in your control
If you could only let your guard down
You could learn to trust me somehow
I swear, that I won't let you go
If you could only let go your doubts
If you could just believe in me now
I swear, that I won't let you go
I won’t let you go"

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