There have been a lot of new releases this year in mainstream Christian Worship this year. I’ve purchased quite a few and so I’d like to briefly review some of them, month-by-month through 2015. Click here for my review of 2013 (part 1 and part 2) and 2014’s albums. I’ll also mention at this point that the reviews are not based on lyrical content as such, but primarily musical. The reason for this is that I am reviewing from a musical perspective, and that I believe each album has Biblical, Gospel-centred lyrics. Secondly, I will not be reviewing Christmas albums: sorry!
5/5 – outstanding 4.5/5 – exceptional 4/5 – excellent
3.5/5 – very good 3/5 – good 2.5/5 – average
2/5 – below average 1.5/5 and below – poor
In January, Hillsong Y&F continued their steady rise with their new EP, ‘This is Living’. The title track is your standard Avicii ‘Wake Me Up’ inspired track with a big synth chorus, featuring prominent hip-hop rapper Lecrae, too. Its a good EP overall, big and bouncy tracks with more subdued ones. On a less-serious note, I wonder if Y&F are running out of upbeat title track names – already we’ve had ‘Alive’, ‘Wake’, ‘Energy’! 3/5.
Bethel Music also released another album, ‘We Shall Not Be Shaken.’ It’s beautifully shot and produced and features some brand-new artists on their label. Bethel just keep adding more musicians and are continually developing their sound from album to album. ‘Ever Be’, ‘Sea of Crimson’ are great tracks, and ‘No Longer Slaves’ has already become a regular in many Churches. I have really enjoyed their past few albums – I recently bought ‘You Make Me Brave’ and I loved it. From a drum standpoint on this album, there are two kits on every song, and each sound adds brilliantly to the album. 4/5.
Not much of note in February, except USA CCM artist favourite Jeremy Camp releasing another album, ‘I Will Follow’, on Capitol Records. In March, WorshipMob released ‘Carry The Fire’ and Newsong released a live album, ‘Faithful’, both through Integrity. Matt Maher released a new album, ‘Saints and Sinners’ and Third Day released a worship album. When they released their last one to critical acclaim, I was expectant. I found this one as enjoyable too. Great production, interesting tracks make for a nice listen over and over. ‘Soul on Fire’, ‘My Deliverer’ stand out. 4/5. Passion. Another year, another release for Passion. In my opinion the previous two were quite disappointing, reminding me of Hillsong albums between 2009-12, quite average albums with only 1 or 2 stand-out songs. This one was a slight improvement in my opinion, with ‘Shout Hosanna’ and ‘Wonder’ standing out. ‘Even So Come’ is a decent track too, although there are so many similarities to previous years tracks. Kristian Standfill’s tracks over the years have become too formulaic for me though, have a listen to their similarities (and ‘Shout Hosanna’ intro compared to Tomlin’s ‘The Cross of Christ’). 2.5/5.
In April, Passion artist Christy Nockels released ‘Let it Be Jesus’ and Jesus Culture artist Derek Johnson released his debut album, ‘Real Love’.
In May, Citizens & Saints released ‘Join The Triumph’ and Planetshakers released their studio album, ‘Outback: Worship Sessions’. Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman released his solo EP ‘The Wonderland: Sunlight’. At the end of the month, Hillsong UNITED’s highly anticipated follow-up to ‘Zion’ was released: ‘Empires’. It may not feature a stand-out song in the same line as ‘Oceans (Where Feet May Fail),’ but UNITED have again released another great album, subtly blending live instruments with electronics. Brilliantly produced and featuring some great worshipful moments, and surprisingly long tracks. Tracks like ‘Touch The Sky’, ‘Street Called Mercy’ and ‘Heart Like Heaven’ particularly stand out as well as the title track. This is an album that wouldn’t feel out of place or secondary in the mainstream secular charts, and it shows – as it debuted at no.5 on Billboard. 4/5.
In June, Jonathan David & Melissa Hesler released ‘On The Shores’ through Bethel Music (distributed by Integrity). Terrific album. Prophetic, creative, passionate, worshipful. There are some high points musically and then soft, intimate moments, like in the song ‘Abba’, which is really beautiful. I would thoroughly recommend this album and am looking forward to their next release. 4.5/5. Also released this month from Jesus Culture was their new artist Chris McClarney, perhaps most well-known for the song ‘Your Love Never Fails’. This album, ‘Everything & Nothing Less’ is a pretty strong album, with good tracks such as ‘All Consuming Fire.’ If I can be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of the Jesus Culture backing band with the over-powering keys which sometimes makes the drums (although high in the mix) sound quite robotic and uninspired – no disrespect to the drummer Josh Fisher who’s a great player, but nonetheless, a solid album. 3/5. Matt Redman released his latest album ‘Unbroken Praise’ in mid-June too. Redman’s last 2 albums, ‘10,000 Reasons’ and ‘Your Grace Finds Me’ were recorded at an annual gathering of worship leaders called GIFT. This time round, he recorded in the world-famous ‘Abbey Road Studios.’ Although I will admit to being slightly biased towards Matt Redman – I love both the musical and lyrical content of his songs – this album took a while to develop. The opener is enjoyable for me, ‘Louder’ – and it is your typical “loud” Christian worship upbeat anthem. The title track is also pretty good, as well as ‘Abide With Me’ and ‘It Is Well With My Soul.’ A solid offering again from Redman, but I would love for his next album to be almost written by him alone – I prefer the heartfelt cries of his earlier releases than the co-writes of recent – although he is really great a co-writing with different people. Worth getting. 3/5.
We’ve hit the half way point, July, and I’m going to stop here. Part two coming next week.