We asked our reviewers to offer the top five titles they enjoyed most in 2017 in a number of categories. Some felt five was too limiting; others had trouble sticking to 2017. All in all, our gracious reviewers offer up some wonderful lists of great books, movies, music, and more for your consideration. You can follow links to either the Banner review where available or more information on the title. Here are the lists:
From Paul Delger, an inspirational speaker from Kanawha, Iowa. Born with cerebral palsy, he motivates people to face their challenges with perseverance.
- Let Them Fall in Love by CeCe Winans (Pure Springs Gospel). Powerful and reflective music from one of gospel’s greats.
- Out of the Dark by Mandisa (Sparrow). From despair to hope, Mandisa shares from her heart.
- Where His Light Was by Kristene DiMarco (Bethel Music). Strong worship album.
- Open Hands by Laura Story (Fair Trade). Honest writing full of hope in Christ.
- Trust/Confío by Jaci Velasquez (Integrity). Christian music veteran with sweet sounds available in both English and Spanish versions.
From Jason Hahn, a corporate communications professional and member of Grace Community Chapel in Teaneck, N.J:
- Crookedby Propaganda (Fair Trade).
- Worthy by Beautiful Eulogy (Fair Trade).
- The Beauty Between by Kings Kaleidoscope (Kings Kaleidoscope).
- Sing On! by The Sing Team (BEC Recordings).
- In Part (EP) by Citizens & Saints (Gospel Song Records).
From Jordan Petersen, auditor at Crowe Horwath LLP and member of Sherman St CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.:
- Guppy by Charly Bliss (Barsuk Records). Bubbly, bizarre, and completely in-your-face, the debut album from the New York power-pop band Charly Bliss proves just how powerful catchy-hooks can be. I could not stop listening to this album this year.
- Sleep Well Beast by The National (4AD). A consistently great album from a consistently great band, Sleep Well Beast continues The National’s winning trend of writing meaningful songs that don’t mute or betray the band’s age. The National vouches for the unfortunately seldom-represented notion in rock music that one’s feelings after the age of 40 are worthwhile and important.
- Aromanticism by Moses Sumney (Jagjaguwar). Somehow soaring, ethereal, and disarmingly intimate all at once, the debut album from Moses Sumney is a masterful exploration of what it means to be lovingly alone in a relationship-obsessed world.
- DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar (Top Dawg Entertainment). Provocative and pronounced, DAMN. sees Kendrick Lamar doing the dirty work that both his obsessives and dissenters are bound to do given his now iconic status. Picking apart every facet of his being—internal and external—Kendrick Lamar uses the framework of exile from God to point to all of the ways he may be flawed, mighty, and messy. Or, in other words, a person.
- Melodrama by Lorde (Universal). An airtight and arresting pop album; the result of a world class artist cultivating and guarding her vision. Conceptually, Melodrama fits the criteria of a break-up album, but functionally pushes into something bigger. In the context of a year in which feelings, testament and truth were hotly debated topics with the rise of phenomena such as the “Me Too” movement, Melodrama stands as a crucial representation that the feelings and stories of women are real, necessary and worth dancing to.
Coming up: My most anticipated albums of 2018 include titles from La Dispute, Mewithoutyou, Lucy Dacus, Courtney Barnett, and Major Murphy. From Reginald Smith, director of race relations and social justice for the Christian Reformed Church and member of Madison Square Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.:
- Christmas by Kirk Franklin and the Family Christmas (SBME). This album could be played all year.
- Turn Up the Quiet by Diana Krall (Verve). Always silky smooth from a veteran jazz musician.
- 4:44 by Jay-Z (Roc Nation). He’s back with his confession for bad decisions.
- Divide by Ed Sheeran (Atlantic). He’s simply a great songwriter.
- Close by Marvin Sapp (RCA Inspiration). Marvin has good songs for worship in the car or at work.
From Micah van Dijk, who works at Redeemer University College in Hamilton, Ont., planning student events that facilitate an engaged campus culture. He also speaks in classes and youth groups regarding faith and popular music.
- All Things Work Together by Lecrae (Columbia). A revealing album of Lecrae's struggle to continue to advocate for justice while facing criticism from the church.
- Grace Street by Big Wreck (Rounder). An innovative album that satisfies the musical longings of listeners looking for more than a four minute pop or rock song.
- Adventby James Hoffman (Other Songs Music). An album quietly anticipating Christ's coming and a great antidote to the loud commercialism of wider culture.
- Perception by NF (Capitol). An inspiring and therapeutic album for listeners who may be working through pain.
- Pacifisticuffs by The Diablo Swing Orchestra (Spinefarm). A quirky album that blends orchestra, opera, metal, and swing music.
From Greg Veltman, the Interfaith Centre coordinator at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta:
There have been some good releases from some big names in 2017: Beck, U2, Bruce Cockburn, The National, and Arcade Fire. Here I recommend a few you may have overlooked:
- Belong by San Fermin (Downtown Records)
- Ash by Ibeyi (XL Recordings)
- Ultralife by Oh Wonder (Republic)
- Melodrama by Lorde (Lava Music)
- American Teen by Khalid (RCA)
The Nashville Soundby Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit (Southeastern Records)