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We asked two friends of The Banner to give us their thoughts on 10 of the best music albums of the last year. Dan Hubka is senior buyer of music and kids product for Family Christian Stores. Greg Veltman is student activities coordinator for the Student Activities Office (SAO) at Calvin College. With no further ado, here are their picks.


This was a more difficult task than I expected. I was able to get down to 20 pretty easy . . . and a top 15 was not hard, nor was a top 5. Figuring out my favorite 6-10 though—that was tough.

1. Tenth Avenue North, The Struggle (Reunion)

I’m a sucker for about anything that Mike Donehey (lead singer) does. He keeps a really cool video journal. I’m also a fan of the consistent, rock-solid theology that is always woven throughout any Tenth Avenue North record.

2. Britt Nicole, Gold (Sparrow)

I’ve gotten to know Britt a bit over the last few years, and it is hard not to be a fan of who she is as a person—such an amazing spirit. She can absolutely write a hook. This record is energetic and positive.

3. Warren Barfield, Redbird (Noble Mountain Records)

On certain days, this independently-released record is at the top of my list. In Barfield’s own words, he had the chance to “write a record with no restrictions, no pressure to try to make a hit record.” Bluesy and honest.

4. Brandon Heath, Blue Mountain (Provident)

The record, inspired by a quote from C.S. Lewis, tells the story of a fictional place. Each song is about a setting or character from Blue Mountain. The song “Dying Day” is remarkable.

5. Rhett Walker Band, Come to the River (Provident)

I love Southern rock, and I love stories of redemption. Meet Rhett Walker. Can’t get enough of this record.

6. Audrey Assad, Heart (Sparrow)

No one has come close to reminding me of Nichole Nordeman until Audrey Assad came around. Love her poetic writing style. (See full Banner review.)

7. KB, Weight & Glory (Reach Records)

I am a huge fan of hip hop (minus the obscene language and imagery). Most people in the Christian industry know who Lecrae is, but few know KB . . . I don’t think that will last long.

8. Rend Collective Experiment, Homemade Worship by Handmade People (Kingsway)

If you ever have a chance to see them live, do it . . . they are fun.

9. Kari Jobe, Where I Find You (Sparrow)

Jobe has a bit of that Leigh Nash (Sixpence None the Richer) quality to her singing, and while most of the lyrics are vertical in the “praise and worship” fashion, the production on the record keeps it moving forward.

10. Chris August, The Upside of Down (Fervent)

So many people only know artists by their radio singles, and that’s too bad. Most often, the gems on a record aren’t played on the radio. That’s true for Chris. He’s a classic storyteller but also has some musical fun (check out “Let the Music Play”).

Honorable Mentions:


While I spent a lot of time listening to the very popular new Mumford & Sons album Babel, here are 10 projects by lesser-known artists I delighted in this past year.

1. Beach House, Bloom (Sub Pop)

Airy dream-pop with distinctive guitar hooks and mellow keyboard melodies.

2. Kishi Bashi, 151a (Joyful Noise)

What can one man do with a violin and some looping equipment and a Kickstarter fund campaign? Amazing sounds quickly emerge.

3. Michael Kiwanuka, Home Again (Cherrytree Records)

Jimi Hendrix-inspired folk music with a ton of soul.

4. Father John Misty, Fear Fun (Sub Pop)

The solo project of former Fleet Fox Josh Tillman, this album retains much of the sound of Fleet Foxes while lyrically exploring more personal questions and experiences.

5. Of Monsters and Men, My Head is an Animal(Universal Republic)

Fantastical stories of animals and a fun, upbeat tempo to make them come alive in your living room or on your commute. (See full Banner review.)

6. Alabama Shakes, Boys & Girls (Ato Records)

Great vocals with a solid-rock band backing it up.

7. The Mountain Goats, Transcendental Youth (Merge Records)

The lyrics drip with religious imagery and deep faith questions, all with the great addition of horns arranged by Matthew E. White.

8. Passion Pit, Gossamer (Columbia)

Great beats that are easy to dance to and complex lyrics that aren’t just filler.

9. Shearwater, Animal Joy (Sub Pop)

Rock music that begs to be played loudly; it makes you feel like an ant in a great forest with a fast river and majestic animals all around.

10. Sigur Rós, Valtari (XL Recordings)

Still making cosmic, transcendent music that transports you to another world.

Read more of Greg’s top music picks for the year on the Student Activities Office blog at Calvin College. Currently SAO is hard at work putting together the Festival of Faith and Music, coming up on April 11-13.

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