Gospel Soundcheck

As I sat here this week listening to some of the CDs I’ve gotten in for review over the past 12 months looking for the best of 2008, I came to one conclusion: it’s impossible to pick “the best” of anything when you have so much to choose from.
In reality, I haven’t even listened to every CD that came in, so how do I know if I’ve even heard the best? And if I’m being honest (and regular readers of this blog will know that, if nothing else, I am honest) some stuff I like on Monday, am cool to on Wednesday and hate on Friday.
I admit it. I’m a music fan swayed by moods and the weather, with music for every emotion and season. And when I like something, I play it until I wear it out, to the exclusion of most everything else. Yeah, I’m a little obsessive-compulsive with everything, including my music.
So rather than give myself a panic attack trying to come up with the best music of 2008, I’ll just share with you some of the music that really resonated with me, and in a few cases, changed my life.

Shawn McDonald
If I had to pick my favorite album of 2008, it would be Shawn McDonald’s Roots, hand’s down. McDonald is creative in a way that you won’t find in other Christian music, and pulls it off without compromising forthright spiritual lyrics. He also released an EP of remixes of some of the songs on this album, which just adds another dimension to his creativity. If you’re tired of cookie cutter Christian music, this is the album you need to hear.
The Waiters, The Watchers, The Listeners, The Keepers & Me
Sarah MacIntosh
The former lead vocalist of Chasing Furies lends her ethereal vocals to this lovely collection of beautiful music. Like Shawn McDonald, Sarah MacIntosh offers a creative take on music that explores the depths of our spirituality.
Ending is Beginning
I’ve been a fan of Downhere for years, since I met them at a music festival early in their career and we clicked. So this is a personal pick for me, because their music often hits me exactly where I need to be hit. Their first album was my life soundtrack for a while, and while I liked their last two albums, this one once again spoke directly to me. The song “Here I Am,” in particular, was what I needed this year to kind of put life into perspective. The line “Somehow my story is part of your plan” really resonated with me. Sometimes I forget that while the things God has me do seem trivial to me, it’s all part of a bigger eternal picture.
A New Abolition
The Wrecking
I can’t exactly tell you why I love The Wrecking’s A New Abolition so much. Part of it is obviously the music; there are some great songs here, including their remake of Peter Gabriels’ “In Your Eyes,” which was used by Love146. But part of it is also the band, whom I met at GMA. A lot of times I see acts that are playing music as a career choice, which is fine. And then I meet bands that are playing because if they didn’t, they’d be disobedient to God. That’s what I get from The Wrecking, and that attitude comes out in their music.
Limbs And Branches
Jon Foreman
It’s Jon Foreman’s “Instead of a Show” that has been swirling around in my brain as I’ve been reading the Bible from cover to cover this year. I got the song immediately, but its message has been reinforced as I read again and again how, rather than our sacrifices or songs, God wants us to execute justice, show mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Show compassion. Pursue righteousness. Fight for justice. Feed the poor. Clothe the naked. This is our worship.
Not Without Love
Jimmy Needham
Here’s another album of profoundly spiritual music with a totally different musical approach. Needham’s bluesy piano ballads and rocking guitar tunes are a refreshing change from the CCM-radio repetitions.
That’s just a partial list of some of the music that I really loved this year. But it’s a good start, and some of those are albums you probably won’t hear about on other Christian music sites.
But who cares what I think. I’d love to know what albums you loved from 2008!
Check out the Gospel Soundcheck’s “Christian Music Year In Review,” a look back at the stories you were talking about on the Gospel Soundcheck blog.
A musing, a confession, and the last word (this week) on Christian music
Pick of the Week – Jimmy Needham’s ‘Not Without Love’
Further thoughts on Jon Foreman’s Summer
Review of Shawn McDonald’s Roots
Pick of the Week – The Wrecking’s ‘A New Abolition’
5 Things You Didn’t Know About The Wrecking