Spotify Albums of the Month – June

Last month saw two good new albums from female artists, and since my previous Spotify recommendations have been a little male dominated, I have decided to make this girl’s month for my monthly CCM Spotify recommendations.

Christy NockelsLife Light Up. (4/5) Christy Nockels is a worship leader with the Passion movement. There are some great melodies and enough surprises thrown into the chord sequences to prevent this from being just another worship album. A Mighty Fortress is Our God is a wonderful adaption of the classic hymn which I hope will be picked up by many churches. She does a great rendition of Brooke Fraser’s Hosanna, but it is a song that just seems to be on everyone’s album at the moment. You are able is another strong track on what has been my favourite new album of the month.

http://www.christynockels.com/

Lanae’ HaleBack and Forth. (3.5/5) This is the first album from singer songwriter Lanae’ Hale following here very successful debut EP two years ago. It opens with several upbeat pop/rock tracks that showcase her excellent voice, before settling down for a few stripped down ballads. If I’m Broken and Here’s to the Girls stood out for me. An enjoyable listen despite the lyrics being a little girly in places.

http://www.lanaehale.com/

Amy GrantLead Me On 20th Anniversary Edition (4/5) – Amy Grant has had a remarkable career in the Christian music industry, spanning decades, but the pick of her albums is clearly 1988 release "Lead Me On". It has been voted number one Christian album of all time. Sure it sounds a little dated now, but I still find it a good listen. Title track Lead Me On and the pointed What About the Love are my favourites. The bonus second disk includes some alternative versions and a few brief interviews.

http://www.amygrant.com/

Vicky BeechingDouble Take (Painting the Invisible & Yesterday, Today and Forever). (3.5/5) Vicky Beeching is a worship leader and songwriter with Vineyard. Originally from the UK, she is now based in Canada. Several of her worship songs became well known after being included Vineyard UK albums, including Yesterday, Today and Forever, Above All Else, and There’s No One Like Our God. I really like the hymn-like The Wonder of the Cross. The double-album format represents excellent value for money, if you’re not listening on Spotify. It would be nice to see a new album from her in the near future.

http://vickybeeching.com/blog/

Sara GrovesTell Me What You Know. (4/5) Sarah Groves has been churning out successful albums for a decade now. Thanks to Spotify, I have been able to listen to a few of them and have picked out 2007 release Tell Me What You Know as my favourite. I like her distinctive and almost conversational song-writing style such as Song for my Sons, or the stirring When the Saints.

http://www.saragroves.com/

Spotify Albums of the Month – May

Here’s some of the albums I’ve been listening to on Spotify last month. Apologies to any readers in countries unable to use Spotify.

NewsboysIn the Hands of God (3/5)

The only Newsboys album I own is Thrive, which I thought was a nice mixture of the anthemic and the quirky. In some ways this new album has a similar sound, but lacks the stand-out tracks that Thrive has. Lyrically it was a little disappointing. "This is your life, treat yourself right, treat others right, live like you know you should". … "heaven’s calling for your best shot", sound like little more than a motivational pep talk. "In the hands of God" and The Upside are my favourites.

Chris and ConradChris and Conrad (4/5)

This a very strong debut album with impeccable production quality. In fact, it almost seems too slick in places – did we really need auto-tuned vocals in Rescue? Its filled with lots of big, anthemic melodies. The songs are well crafted, and the lyrics express complete devotion to Jesus. Lead me to the cross (which interestingly also features on the Newsboys album – I don’t know whose song it is), Love Revolution, and Breathe Your Life are my favourites.

Jeremy RiddleThe Now and Not Yet (3/5)

Jeremy Riddle is a Vineyard pastor / worship leader. The album features a mix of driving praise tracks and more reflective ballads. Bless his name is perhaps the most suitable for congregational use, with a strong melody if a little unadventurous. I didn’t think any one track really stood out, but I liked Among the Poor and I am Redeemer.

Jonny DiazMore Beautiful You (3.5/5)

This album has a cheerful and sometimes cheesy pop sound, but thanks to some nicely crafted lyrics and melodies, I still found it enjoyable. The opening track More Beautiful You, tackles self-esteem issues in young girls, although risks sounding a little clichéd. The humorous bonus track The Opener is a nice addition.

AbandonII (3/5)

Rather unconventionally, Abandon have followed up their debut EP with another EP rather than a full album. The opening track Song for the Broken has a U2 feel to it. If I could write a song, has a beautiful melody, although I was not entirely sure I knew what it was about.

Spotify Albums of the Month – April

I have been enjoying listening to a variety of new albums on Spotify again this month, so here’s another round of recommendations for you to try out.

Jars of ClayThe Long Fall Back to Earth.

 

This album was released only a couple of weeks ago, so it provided the perfect opportunity for me to check out yet another popular and successful Christian artist that thus far had passed me by. It took me a few listens before I really got into it. I would describe it as a consistently good album with no real stand-out tracks. There are lots of gentle, atmospheric melodic tracks interspersed with a few more upbeat numbers, and shades of Coldplay here and there. My favourite tracks on the album are Hero and Heart.

Jon ForemanFall, Winter, Spring, Summer EPs.

Jon Foreman is lead singer and main songwriter with Switchfoot, but last year he completed a series of four solo EPs, one for each of the four seasons, with a more acoustic and stripped-down backing than the Switchfoot albums. The quality of lyrics is high, with some songs telling poignant stories, and several based on Scriptural passages. The backing is mostly acoustic guitar with various orchestral instruments quietly in the background adding interest.

Here’s my pick of the tracks from each album. Fall: Equally Skilled. Winter: Behind Your Eyes. Spring: Your Love is Strong. Summer: Instead of a Show

Chris TomlinHello Love

Having enjoyed his last two releases (See the Morning and Arriving) I had high hopes for this album, but must confess to being a little disappointed. Its not that there is anything ‘wrong’ with it per se, it just seems too similar to everything that has gone before.

Opening tracks Sing, Sing, Sing and Jesus, Messiah essentially carry right on from where he left off before. Perhaps he would benefit from working with a different producer and band on future albums. I’m not sure that many of the tracks will have the enduring appeal of previous congregational worship hits such as Indescribable and How Great is Our God. He covers Bluetree’s God of this City, which gives extra exposure to an excellent song. The title track Love, complete with Watoto Children’s Choir would be more suited as a theme tune to a forthcoming Lion King movie.

Jimmy NeedhamNot Without Love.

Christianity Today magazine gave this album a rave review and even compared his passionate lyrics to Keith Green. I decided it was worth a listen even though the “jazz-inflected acoustic pop” is not quite my normal choice of music. The opening track champions the apologetic power of love over mere words and arguments, but its hard to be provocative when your making a point everyone agrees with. There’s a nice mixture of moods. My favourite tracks are Before and After and The Author. The spoken closing track is certainly passionate, but in my view a little overwrought. I skipped it on subsequent listens. Overall a refreshing change from my normal listening habits, but probably only one for occasional listening.

PS Apologies to any readers in regions where you can’t access Spotify. I’m sure there are equivalent ways of checking these albums out.

Spotify Albums of the Month

I decided at the start of this year that I would make an effort to expand my musical horizons by listening to some bands I had not heard before. I started buying a new album a month, but since discovering Spotify I have been able explore many new artists in a way that previously had been out of my budget. Sadly, very few Christian British artists such as Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Martyn Layzell, Phatfish, Vineyard UK etc are currently available on Spotify, but despite that there is no shortage of good new material to try out. Here are the highlights of what I have bought and/or heard on Spotify recently:

Charlie HallThe Bright Sadness
Not really a typical worship album, although opens with a powerful anthem “Chainbreaker”. Has grown on me over several listens and steers clear of typical clichéd lyrics. In “Walk the World” he very makes a very interesting link between the symbolism of the communion meal and our witness.Rating: ★★★★★
SwitchfootThe Beautiful Letdown
Apparently Switchfoot have made it big and been around for a while. Who knew? This is not their latest, but is my favourite of what I have listened to so far. Hard rocking for the most part, and with more intelligent lyrics than you might be expecting.Rating: ★★★★½
Matt MaherEmpty and Beautiful
Not that well-known a name, but his opening track “Your grace is enough” has become well known through Chris Tomlin’s cover. I came across him after his song “I rejoice” was featured on a worship website. Not particularly unique when compared to other worship leader albums, but is very well produced and an enjoyable listen.Rating: ★★★½☆
Marty MageheeOpen
Another artist I had never heard of before, who was previously part of 4Him, yet another Christian band who had passed me by. Anyway, this is his first solo album and its an enjoyable listen, with a nice variety of styles and possibly the one and only song dealing with the “da Vinci Code” in his quirky yet hauntingly beautiful track “Leonardo”.Rating: ★★★½☆

Are you using Spotify? Any album recommendations for me to check out?