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In tradition of years past (though I kind of forgot last year)… looking back on the music, movies, and books I loved!

This was a weird year for me and music. I didn’t do a whole lot of wide exploring, but rather found myself returning to records I loved in a year of lots of change. While I’m hoping to correct that in 2015, there were still many records I enjoyed in 2014. My 10 most listened to albums, in no particular order… (because ranking is stressful and I already did that twice for JFH and Under the Radar)

Needtobreathe – Rivers in the Wasteland


I kept coming back to this record as a favorite all year… it’s honest, raw, painful, and joyful all at once, and if you listen all the way through it tells a beautiful redemption story, from glimmers of hope in “Wasteland” to celebration and reconciliation in “Brother” and “More Heart, Less Attack.” Broken hearts do make the best art. (My review for JFH)

Switchfoot – Fading West


This album felt like summer in January, and continues to sound amazing a year later. One thing I’ve always loved about Switchfoot is how alive their music always feels, and this one, though sounding very different for them, nails that feeling from start to finish.

Jason Gray – Love Will Have the Final Word


I’m a big fan of Jason as an artist and a human, and am grateful to call him a friend. This spring release only kept moving higher up my favorites list as the year went on as one of the most heartbreaking, honest, and grace-filled Christian albums of the year. (My review for JFH)

Jeremy Casella – Death in Reverse


I jumped in on the Kickstater for this one based on liking his previous album, loving this one’s title, and knowing he was Rabbit Room approved. But it blew my expectations away! Expansive, soaring, haunting pop soundscapes backing songs about the hope of restoration to come. One of those rare records that still leaves me breathless after many listens.

Coldplay – Ghost Stories


Loving Coldplay became uncool years ago, but who cares? Each new record from them surprises me, and this melancholy piece of ambient beauty got a lot of listening time from me this year. I bought it twice. (digital and vinyl)

U2 – Songs of Innocence


Haters gonna hate, hate, hate… wait, wrong record. But dude, this was great. It sounds old and new at the same time, different yet distinctly U2. I love the more personal nature of the songwriting. The Internet got mad because they got this free. I don’t understand the world.

Ellie Holcomb – As Sure as the Sun


Another fun surprise of the year. I love Ellie’s voice! I love her folksy pop style. And I love how she can turn Scripture into catchy songs without being cheesy about it. (My review for JFH)

Kye Kye – Fantasize


I continue to be a sucker for ambient electronic music. Kye Kye was a band I’d heard of, but never really heard until earlier this year, when my husband properly introduced me to Fantasize. Lush sounds, beautiful vocals, and still an electronic album with a lot of heart and humanity.

Jill Phillips – Mortar and Stone


Seeing Jill perform this from start to finish at Hutchmoot already predisposed me to like it, but the album itself was just as wonderful. A polished sound, a stunning voice, and beautiful, encouraging songwriting.

John Mark McMillan – Borderland


I think I listened to this one quite a bit over the summer (again, thanks to Chris). There’s a bit of classic Springsteen vibe going on, a little rough in the right places, and some really great songwriting as usual.

Honorable mentions: Andrew Peterson – After All These Years (mostly old songs, but a great career retrospective), Jack White – Lazaretto (grungy old school rock n roll and that ridiculously cool LP), Colony House – When I was Younger (such a fun indie pop-rock record!), Anberlin – Lowborn (a fitting conclusion to a band long-loved), Brooke Fraser – Brutal Romantic (dark brooding dance pop that evolves her sound in an unexpected way), Andy Osenga – Heart and Soul EPs (two very different sides of a fantastic artist) and Copeland – Ixora (because I am still an emo kid deep deep down)

Huh. Here I thought I didn’t listen to a lot of new music this year, and then when I start making a list… :)