Thanksgiving is done, we’re barrelling onward to Christmas, and before you know it, it’s going to be 2017. This part of the year always feels like such a mad dash to me, with holidays every few weeks, vacation plans going on, and, oh yeah, the end of another year of music.
Here are five albums for you to check out when you’re not freaking out over how fast the year went by.
Wolves at the Gate – Types and Shadows
Is Reformed Metal a thing? It seems like metal and hardcore is a genre with enough subdivisions that it wouldn’t be too much of a reach.
Anyway, if there is such a thing as Reformed Metal, Wolves at the Gate would be the posterboys. Maybe. I’m basing this whole thing on the fact that their last album featured several snippets of John Piper sermons.
I will say, though, that Wolves at the Gate plays some of the most consistently gospel-oriented melodic hardcore of this era of heavy music. Their success isn’t based in packing every song with theological truth so much as it’s in making sure that theology comes across as poetic and not preachy.
Types and Shadows is a much more melodic album than their last projects. Some may be disappointed to hear fewer screams, but personally, I’ve always thought their sense of melody was what set them apart musically. At least in my book, this latest offering plays to their strengths and makes it a must-listen for anyone looking for heavy Christ-centered music.
Also, there’s a fantastic cover of a hymn with one of the most metal titles of all time: There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood.
Download Types and Shadows on iTunes here
Fresh Life Worship – More / Enough
The age of the worship keytar has come.
I don’t know if any actual keytars were used on Fresh Life Worship’s latest album, but that idea of a worship keytar has been emblematic of a trend toward more and more electronic and synthesized elements in worship music. The guitar swells and dotted eighth riffs probably won’t ever completely disappear, but it seems the bleeps, bloops, and zips of the new wave of worship music won’t fade quietly into the night, either.
More / Enough fully embraces the electronic side of things, but in a way that really feels genuine. This isn’t I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever, but transposed onto a saw synth. These are actual songs arranged with a sparse, electronic sound specifically in mind. If you’re looking for a slightly different sound in worship music, Fresh Life Worship just might be for you.
Download More / Enough on iTunes here
Josh Garrels – The Light Came Down
Tis the season.
I’ve done my best not to cover Christmas albums on this column. I don’t have anything against them or anything. For whatever reason, they just feel like they should have their own category. They’re these seasonal things that you really only dust off for a month or two every year.
That won’t necessarily be the case with the new Josh Garrels Christmas album, and, frankly, I’m not surprised.
One of Christian music’s best singer-songwriters, Garrels has followed up his 2015 masterpiece Home with a Christmas album that is every bit as good as the rest of his other material. This isn’t a collection of eight songs, four of which are half-hearted covers of public domain Christmas carols and loaded down with sleigh bells. In fact, except for the traditional Christmas songs, most of the tracks on this album would blend right in to any other folksy playlist at any other time of year.
The Light Came Down is filled with Garrels’s signature jazzy folk sound and, of course, his hauntingly unique voice. This is a must-listen for anyone in need of a holiday listen that’s both chill and complex.
Download The Light Came Down on iTunes here
Chris Quilala – Split the Sky
If you don’t know the name Chris Quilala, you might at least know the band he comes from – Jesus Culture.
Chris’s solo album feels a lot like a Jesus Culture album, only with a different stylistic spin. The songs still have simple lyrics paired with lush music, a combination that lends itself to focused meditation on simple topics. The difference here is that instead of swelling guitars and ringing cymbals, the lush music is achieved more with programmed beats and swirling synths.
What’s great about this album is that, even though there is a lot going on musically, the songs don’t feel over-packed, which is a common pitfall for solo artists exploring electronic instrumentation. The songs have room to breathe, and each texture and sound is able to shine and contribute, rather than everything piling on top of each other into a wall of sound.
Download Split the Sky on iTunes here
Future of Forestry – Awakened to the Sound
Once again, with almost no promotional buildup or marketing push beyond a few posts on Facebook, Future of Forestry has dropped a new album.
And once again, it’s really good.
The symphonic indie rock act, led by ringleader Eric Owyoung, is back with yet another multilayered, soaring collection of songs. Once again, Owyoung shines as a composer, showing a real ability to use strings with sophistication. There are bands that use strings as a replacement for a guitar riff, and then there is Future of Forestry. There’s nothing wrong with the first approach, but much of the music on Awakened to the Sound sounds like it could be on a movie soundtrack, and that’s something special. Combined with Owyoung’s unique voice and some of the band’s most vertically-focused lyrics since 2007’s worship classic Twilight, it makes for a solid end-of-the-year listen.
Download Awakened to the Sound on iTunes here
There we go. Another month, another five albums. I’ll have one more of these posts for you, and then I’ll pick a top ten sometime early in 2017. In the meantime, feel free to listen to my ongoing Christian Music Spotify playlist. At this moment, it’s sitting at roughly 8 and a half hours with 127 bands represented. You can listen here.
Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments!