Let’s be honest. While 2013 certainly boasted a few quality albums (Skillet, The Digital Age anyone?), it lacked the punch of those years that have had you racing to iTunes or your local store each week for the latest and greatest from your favorite bands. Thankfully, 2014 seems set to right those wrongs with one of the more impressive first-quarter lineups to come along in quite a while and in the interest of keeping you in the know, here are some highlights to be on the lookout for:

January 14

SwitchfootSwitchfoot – Fading West

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Jon Foreman and company, and with this record coming hard on the heels of the band’s first feature-length film by the same name, fans can only expect more of the same powerful lyrics and anthem-fueled rock the band’s come to be known for.

 

January 28

Casting CrownsCasting Crowns – Thrive

The Casting Crowns crew have spent the past several years making their brand of worship, occasionally polarizing listeners, while doing their best to encourage the Body of Christ. With this release the question for many is whether or not the ministry-based band will change the template at all or will it be business as usual? We’ll have to wait to see.

Jamie GraceJamie Grace – Ready to Fly

Jamie Grace is one of the most promising acts to come up in the CCM world in a long time. Her full-length debut showed her diversity and depth powerfully and led to her well-deserved New Artist of the Year Dove Award in 2012. And at the age of 22, she carries herself with a maturity that’s far beyond her years. This will be one to watch.

 

February 18

CrowderCrowder – Neon Steeple

The disbanding of The David Crowder Band was, for many, a tragic moment. How could this happen? What would become of our favorite bearded frontman and his friends? 2013 answered part of that question with the debut of The Digital Age and finally 2014 is bringing us new music from the man himself, Crowder. Billed as “folktronica,” this one promises to be a must-listen.

March 4

Jason Gray Cover ArtJason Gray – Love Will Have the Final Word

John Mark McMillan – Borderline

Gaither Vocal Band – Hymns

March 4th promises to be a great week with something for just about everyone. Three sets of artists from varying circles, one a noted pop-flavored singer-songwriter, one a celebrated and oft-sung progressive worship artist who’s writing his most “mature” songs to date, and a legendary southern gospel group boasting its swan song of its current line-up as they tackle classic songs from the hymnal. For many of us, the only question will be which to listen to first.

April 12

Needtobreathe CoverNEEDTOBREATHE – Rivers in the Wasteland

It’s been a long road for southern rockers NEEDTOBREATHE, something the band has artistically documented in the short film Prove the Poets Wrong, which released not long ago. Internal struggles, the departure of a longtime member, and more are among the hardships the South Carolina-based group has experienced and which have led them to deeper creative places. “You’ve inspired us to go to places we never imagined we’d go,” the band shares in their film, “To dig deeper and challenge ourselves like never before and to create the best album of our career.” Sounds like it’ll have been worth the wait.

April 22

Francesca BattistelliFrancesca Battistelli – If We’re Honest

It’s been nearly three years (not counting a worthwhile Christmas effort) since fans have heard anything new from two-time “Female Vocalist of the Year” Francesca Battistelli. Yet if the artist’s first single, “Write Your Story” is any indication, she hasn’t lost a step. Look to hear this one blasting through your speakers more than once.

 

April ???

U2 – TBA

While they aren’t technically a band from the CCM world, it’s hard to deny the powerful lyrics and tremendous reach of what is possibly the world’s biggest rock band. With production from Danger Mouse and rumors of a return to the sounds of U2 of old, we can’t wait to hear this one!

So, what did we miss? What’s on your must-listen list coming this Spring?

Chime in and let us know!