Welcome to December! As we close the book on 2013, it’s award season – Grammy nominations will be announced tomorrow – and it’s also almost time for year-end charts. I’m occasionally asked to contribute to “best music of the year” features, and I’m always surprised when I look back as far as January and discover songs and albums that made a big impact but now seem so distant.
What is perhaps more constructive, as an industry observer, is to use year-end recollections to note changing trends. For some time now, worship music has dominated the industry. Long enough, in fact, that plenty of folks who have an ear to the ground are curious to see if that dominance will abate in favor of some other sub-genre.
So, as a coarse measure of that trend, here’s a “jog-your-memory” list recalling a major praise & worship music release from each month in 2013. I think it’s safe to say the genre remains strong.
January: Burning Lights – Chris Tomlin
Remember “White Flag”, “God’s Great Dance Floor”, and “Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)”? Tomlin started the year off on January 8 with a wildly popular worship album which set the stage for the Passion Conference that followed.
February: Zion – Hillsong UNITED
UNITED’s highly anticipated release, following a two-year wait, quickly found its way onto the playlists of plenty of church praise bands around the globe.
March: Citizens – Citizens
Leave it to a Seattle band to spark a rock edge in worship music. Citizens crafted an album of literate lyrics and lively instrumentation, resurrecting hymns and composing high-energy originals.
April: All Songs & Daughters – Live
Another fresh voice in worship music, this Tennessee-based duo delivered a stirring acoustic set performed in a single take with a live congregation in a Nashville studio.
May: David Crowder*Band – All This for a King: The Essential Collection
Sure, it’s just a “hits” collection, but this one is noteworthy as an auto-eulogy for one of the finest bands to grace the industry.
June: Graham Kendrick – Duets
Kendrick has been called the “father of modern worship”, and in this release he joined forces with a strong list of other pioneers, including Darlene Zschech, Matt Redman, Paul Baloche, Martin Smith (Delirious), Rend Collective Experiment, Reuben Morgan (Hillsong), Stuart Townend, and Israel Houghton.
July: Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir – Love Lead the Way
Talk about staying power! This was the Choir’s 27th album, and it featured their stirring rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” as performed at the presidential inauguration.
August: Audrey Assad – Fortunate Fall
Already being hailed by some media outlets as the Album of the Year, this release was the product of an overwhelmingly successful Kickstarter campaign. It features deeply meaningful lyrics delivered by Assad’s gentle, beautiful voice.
September: Bethel Music – Tides
This was actually a banner month for the genre (City Harmonic, Darrell Evans, Keith and Kristyn Getty, Matt Papa, Phil Wickham, Matt Redman, and Gungor, whose brilliant “I Am Mountain” just doesn’t fit in any genre). “Tides” revealed what happens when a church-based worship band accustomed to live music finally embraced the studio.
October: Laura Story – God of Every Story
Story really sits in the Adult Contemporary genre, but she definitely has a heart for praise and worship, and her ability to add a thread of her own experiences through her music makes it honest and compelling.
November: Andrew Greer – Angel Band: The Christmas Sessions
We’re stretching the genre again here, but this was a month for Christmas releases, and this was a standout. Greer follows an album of hymns in his Americana style with a seasonal album that’s particularly worshipful.
December: Page CXVI – Advent to Christmas
This is another band intent on creative retelling of hymns, and this is the first of their “Church Calendar” series. Last March, the band gave away over 250,000 albums.