Best Albums & Songs of 2019 (So Far)

2019-08-03T16:49:02+00:00

Have you been able to keep up on all the terrific faith-inspired music over the last 6 months?  For most it’s not easy to sift through it all to find the gems. That’s what we’re here for – to help you discover the best soul-enriching music being made. Our UTR Critics Panel have converged to help recognize the albums and individual songs that won over their ears and hearts in just the last half of year. This is not an exhaustive list (even we might have missed some picks) – but a great starting place to dive in and hopefully find something incredible that you might have missed otherwise.  (These are listed in no particular order.)

[Music qualified for consideration if it was released between 12/1/18 and 6/1/19 and is from a Christian songwriter/artist.]

BEST ALBUMS OF 2019(A)

  • Bloom — Sarah Kroger (“A pensive collection of personal and emotive worship songs that’s beautifully produced”)
  • Father’s Son – Pierce Pettis  (“It’s all about the songwriting here, and the songwriting is superb”)
  • Illumination – Phil Keaggy and Rex Paul (“Killer production and an unabashed loved for tight, polished, classic rock“)
  • Native Tongue – Switchfoot (“An entire album about our great need for LOVE”)
  • Songs We Wrote on Tuesdays – Ripp+Rice (“This unexpected collaboration is sure to delight fans of well-crafted music!”)
  • Fear – Citizen (“This record is somehow both intimate and anthemic in scope”)
  • Autumn & Eve: Old Testaments, Vol 1 – Cindy Morgan (“A raw and emotional offering”)
  • We Will Remember – Christopher Williams (“Mourning. Grief. Celebration. Beautifully based on the book of Joel”)
  • Finch In The Pantry – The Arcadian Wild  (“Bluegrass on steroids! Musicianship, vocals, & songwriting are phenomenal”)
  • When We Were In Love — Mike Mains & The Branches (“The best indie power pop album so far this year”)
  • Love And Revelation – Over The Rhine (“Exactly what we all needed it to be”)
  • Parallels + Meridians – Jess Ray (“Earthy, soulful, and elegantly produced”)
  • Hallowell – Hallowell (“Captures a timeless sound and will age better than most.”)
  • Pep Talks – Judah & The Lion (“A masterpiece with top-notch songwriting, brilliant performances & stellar production”)
  • Front Porch – Joy Williams (“An album about coming home, and that’s exactly what it feels like”)
  • Vulnerability – Strahan (“Birthed out of a time of deep struggles and you will feel it”)
  • Long Live Love — Kirk Franklin (“These songs are full of joy and soul, and call us to love deep even when it’s hard”)
  • Monument – Wild Harbors (“Poppy and bouncy.  Sad and thoughtful. A tour of thoughts and feelings”)
  • Blushing – Copeland (“Copeland delivers a mature take on passion”)
  • One Night Only – Arthur Alligood (“Beautifully captures the emotion and depth of his songwriting“)
  • Moonlight – Johnnyswim (“Full of warmth, focus of purpose, confidence, and sleek soulfulness”)
  • House on a Hill – Amanda Lindsey Cook (“Poignant and powerful with earnest, worshipful lyrics”)
  • With His Wounds We Are Healed (Isaiah 53) – The Corner Room (“A strong soundtrack to Isaiah 53”)
  • Where We Are EP — 6’10 (“This Celtic folk outfit brings even deeper spiritual themes to the surface”)
  • Flying Cars – HeeSun Lee (“Lee brings it hard”)
  • New Ground – Cavina (“Beautiful vocals and exceptional songwriting plus pristine production”)
  • New Stories – London Gatch (“These moving and reverent recordings are all prayers”)
  • Iron Lung – Martin Smith (“Offers everything you’ve ever missed since Delirious retired … and more”)
  • Whispers – Jonas Woods (“Songs from life experience that will impact you on many levels”)
  • Beyond — Teressa Mahoney (“Excellent songwriting, superb production, & strong vocals”)
  • People – Hillsong United (“It is indeed the best that United has offered”)
  • Young in My Head – Starflyer 59 (“A lively album that’s a long way from the shoe-gaze sound they perfected”)
  • Rest EP – Various Artists [from Lexington] (“Peaceful, subdued songs that remind us of the sacredness of rest”)

BEST SONGS OF 2019(A)

  • “Butterfly” — Josh Garrels  (“A danceable groove with Resurrection-themed lyrics”)
  • “Did Not Our Hearts Burn” – Jess Ray (“Experiencing God is mysterious and real”)
  • “Love Yourself (1996 Demo)” – Sufjan Stevens (“It’s a lyrical gem as well, though simple”)
  • “Let It Happen” – Switchfoot (“Gives you plenty to think about”)
  • “Stay” – Strahan (“Haunting and exquisite”)
  • “Front Porch” – Joy Williams (“A wonderfully down-home interpretation of the Prodigal Son and grace“)
  • “Scheduling a Revival” –  Arthur Alligood  (“A rollicking, earnest, and honest song set in the ‘Christ-haunted’ South”)
  • “The Things That I’m Afraid Of” – Ross King (“Honest appraisal of our fears, but also the sovereignty of our God”)
  • “Misfits” – Apollo LTD (“A very special sound that is both super hip and all their own”)
  • “Why Did You Run?” — Judah & The Lion (“Synth pop brilliance with deep lyrics about the need for community”)
  • “I Cannot Know You” – Christopher Williams (“Gathering together is the only way to truly know God”)
  • “Lights Gone Out” – Taylor Leonhardt (“Will have you at the edge of your seat”)
  • “Everybody Is Broken” – Martin Smith  (“A creative setting of Ezekiel 37“)
  • “Native Tongue” – Switchfoot (“Reminds listeners of the power of words”)
  • “In the Beginning“ – Cindy Morgan (“Heartbreaking, yet hopeful, and hauntingly beautiful”)
  • “Can’t Say Much Else” – The Zach Pietrini Band (“A southern rock-infused fight against the darkness”)
  • “I Don’t Want This Job” – Zach Winters (“A recalibration of what’s truly important”)
  • “Family” – Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors (“A wonderful slice of real life”)
  • “Over My Head” – Nicole Serrano (“A lovely slow-jam of a song”)
  • “Gallows” – Jess Ray  (“A rousing call to hope in the midst of despair”)
  • “Awakening” – Amanda Lindsey Cook  (“A stand-out anthem and a personal prayer”)
  • “We’re Getting Better“ – Wild Harbors (“Pure musical joy! A song that’s fun-filled, hopeful and totally infectious!”)
  • “Thunder” — Rick Lee James (“Brought this unpublished Rich Mullins song to life beautifully”)
  • “In Troubled Times” – John Lyzenga (“A true and holy lament occurs when God seems far away”)
  • “Four Verses Into an Altar Call” – Arthur Alligood (“Fantastically paints a picture of disbelief in the context of belief”)
  • “Be Love“ – Kevin Max  (“A great message, fun Beatlesque vibe, and a terrific vocal performance”)
  • “Prodigal Soul” – Switchfoot (“Strong songwriting that aches with emotion”)
  • “For The Joy Set Before Him” – Latifah Makuyi (“Chill and thoughtful with beautiful harmonies”)
  • “To Beat The Devil” – T Bone Burnett (“A Screwtapish reflection – both creepy and important”)
  • “Cadillac” — Joel Ansett  (“Singer-songwriter poignancy with swirls of hip hop and R&B blended in”)
  • “Brothers and Sisters” – Mavis Staples (“Gospel-blues goodness, timely and poignant”)
  • “In the Beginning“ – Cindy Morgan (“Heartbreaking, yet hopeful, and hauntingly beautiful”)
  • “Everything That’s Lost” – Good Saint Nathaniel (“In this fallen world – everything lost will one day be found”)
  • “Someday Soon” – Wilder Woods (“A prayerful song of perseverance with iconic vocals”)
  • “Mr. Zeidman” – Pierce Pettis (“Stirring true story about the “one and only Jew” in his hometown”)
  • “He Won’t Let Go” – Gloria Gaynor (“Smooth, soulful, and groovy”)
  • “Out of The Dark” – Micah/Michelle (“A gorgeous reminder to be faithful”)
  • “May God Love You (Like You’ve Never Been Loved)” – Over the Rhine (“The lyrics say so much”)
  • “Kings and Queens” – Ocean Blue (“A tune about the loveliness and unlikeliness of Grace”)
  • “Take My Fire“ –  Switchfoot –  (“Thought provoking and hard rocking”)
  • “Stand in Your Love” – Bethel Music  (“A sincere yearning for God”)
  • “Driven By Love” – Lindy & the Circuit Riders  (“Isaiah 6:8 comes alive in this song”)

Let us know your thoughts below:  (A) What albums or songs did you give some extra attention because it was on this list?  (B) What albums or songs from 2019A would you add to this list?  —  And don’t forget to listen to the podcast version of our critics picks on the 6/27/19 edition of the Gourmet Music Podcast.

6 Comments

  1. Jon Swerens June 27, 2019 at 3:40 pm - Reply

    Would the new Lovewar album merit mentioning? Or is that too “rock” for OTR to consider? It’s a really great follow-up to their ’90s stuff. Thanks!

    https://roxxrecords.com/collections/roxx-records/products/lovewar-lovewar-2019-cd

  2. Shawn McLaughlin June 27, 2019 at 11:59 pm - Reply

    Both comments about Switchfoot only mention the conceptual or lyrical direction of the album. Not the music. For good reason, IMO. I completely agree that the conceptual ideas are top notch. But, I buy music albums largely for the music. Great lyrics are a plus but lesser on my scale of reasons to listen to music albums.

  3. Shawn Johnsen June 28, 2019 at 4:03 am - Reply

    How about the new Amongst the Giants album? Incredible!

  4. Ralph Milliken June 29, 2019 at 10:57 pm - Reply

    Thanks for these two lists! I have discovered some great music I didn’t know existed and there are a few of my favorite artists/bands that I wasn’t aware had released new music. There are so many great Faith-Based Indie artists out there. Here are some songs that I feel should have made your list (and I hope you will check out) but didn’t: “Dust to the Ground” & “Hope” by Emily Brimlow (my current favorite new artist), “Brighter” by Wyld, “Only Man in the World” by Lion of Judah, “Lux” and “Promises” by Antoine Bradford, “We Could Be the Ones” and “Higher Places” by Ecclisa to name a few. Thanks for all you do UTR.

  5. Christopher Rule July 11, 2019 at 8:32 pm - Reply

    Is Hollowell a joke?

  6. Chris Oakes July 14, 2019 at 3:47 am - Reply

    Completely agree with Ralph’s suggestion of Emily Brimlow – I think her future is bright. Also, check out Road Less Traveled by Fatai – she has been doing some amazing work at Willow Creek. I always look forward to these posts, where I discover so much good music that had flown under MY radar. Thanks for the good work!

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