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My Top 8 Albums of 2008

Tuesdays are usually the day that I publish a book review. Today I am going to break form and will instead fulfill a request by listing my favorite albums of the year. Now I will say off the top that I am no authority on music. In fact, I may be among the least-qualified people to discern good albums from bad. So do understand that this is a list of personal favorites. I am in no way qualified to make judgments on which albums are objectively the best (if any such objective standard exists). In fact, whenever other people tell me an album is amazing, I usually think it’s just plain dumb (think Radiohead). In each case I am including a little snippet of a review from a site more qualified to make judgments. Also, while I do listen to plenty of music from outside the Christian box, I am going to head off controversy and list only Christian albums here. It’s easier this way.

So here, in no particular order, are my 2008 favorites:

Bethany Dillon & Matt HammittIn Christ Alone
Dillon and Hammitt team up here to sing a selection of modern hymns. They choose good songs and adapt them very well. Favorites are “On the Third Day” and “In the Cross Alone I Glory.” “No, these arrangements aren’t meant to be recreated in a church setting, and I imagine the radically different sound will fall outside of the average CCM fan’s comfort zone. That said, this can’t be classified as more of the same. It demonstrates the power of arrangement and lyricism in bringing fresh artistry to worship. As both a worship leader and a music lover, I find In Christ Alone fascinating.”

LeelandOpposite Way
I’m a newcomer to this band, having skipped their first album (which was, apparently more highly-regarded than this one). There are a couple of really nice slower songs on this album with most of the more upbeat songs being in the “pretty good” kind of category. “Opposite Way is one strong album and proof that their debut wasn’t some kind of fluke. These guys are for real.”

AnberlinNew Surrender
This isn’t an album that is full of standout hits. Instead, it’s an album that is just very steadily good. It’s a good experience listening to it, even if there aren’t a lot of “five-star” tracks on it. “Whether new to the band or a fan of five years, there’s enough on the band’s latest that make it worthy of a listen. And though Cities will undoubtedly remain the favorite to many, these ears can’t help but appreciate New Surrender as Anberlin’s most varied and mature album to date.”

FlameOur World Redeemed
I have found that some Christian rappers (for lack of a better way of saying it) try too hard. The genre lends itself to long songs with dense lyrics; some of the guys go just a little bit overboard. Not so with this one. The album shares a lot of very solid theology but does not do so at the expense of good music. Try “Go Buck” or “See More Him” if you want to sample it. “With music and vocals that are relevant to today’s culture, and a love for God and lyrics that can convict and encourage at the same time, it’s easy to strongly recommend Our World: Redeemed.”

The Classic CrimeThe Silver Cord
I love albums that are an experience–that have some kind of internal cohesion to take the listener from the first song to the last. This is that kind of a record and it offers a lot of very strong, interesting tracks. “Silver Cord is an album that can be listened to in its entirety as it’s that good. This album ranks among the best so far this year.”

Capital Lights: This Is an Outrage
This album may not blaze a new trail musically and may not be the greatest example of musicianship, but it’s a lot of fun and sometimes that is just okay by me. It’s just good, fun, powerpop. “Overall, it is an extremely powerful debut and is consistently fun, energetic, and extremely pleasing to the ears. Capital Lights has made a name for themselves with This Is An Outrage, no doubt.”

Two rap albums on the list? You bet! This is my favorite rap album of the year and maybe, just maybe, my favorite overall. I haven’t owned it long enough to make that determination. While I do not listen to a ton of rap music, I make exceptions when it is as good as this. Try “Don’t Waste Your Life” or “Live Free” to see what Lecrae is all about. “Musically, it’s easily as good as (if not better than) anything you will hear on mainstream rap stations. Lyrically, there’s no comparison. Lecrae’s message is better, and better for you.” Seriously, this is a really, really good record.

Which album will I probably listen to most in 2009? It’s hard to say, but if I had to go out on a limb, I’d probably guess this one:

House of HeroesThe End Is Not the End
This album is plain old rock music with some good, melodic tracks. If you’re looking for straight-up rock music, this is probably my choice. Good vocals, good music, good songs. “The End Is Not the End is a delicately conceived, intricately developed, masterfully executed hour of music that somehow still has mass appeal.”

I’m always on the lookout for good new music, so why don’t you list some of your favorites of 2008…

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