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The Best Christian Albums of the 2010s


Oct. 12, 2019

What were the best Christian music albums released in the 2010s? I posed this question to several dozen Christian musicians, writers, critics, and music lovers a few months ago. I asked them to nominate albums they felt were both theologically and artistically rich; albums of any genre that were clearly, unapologetically Christian; albums that pushed Christian music forward in the last decade, redefining what it could be. From their nominations and my own, I compiled the list below.
Certainly there were many other great Christian albums released over the last 10 years, and many that contain rich theological themes but would not quite fit the “Christian album” label (e.g., Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book or Sufjan Stevens’s Carrie and Lowell ). Any list of 25 albums from the span of a decade necessarily only scratches the surface. This list is by no means exhaustive or definitive. It’s simply a grateful celebration of the beautiful artistry, diversity, and devotion on display in Christ-exalting music this last decade.
This list is by no means exhaustive or definitive. It’s simply a grateful celebration of the beautiful artistry, diversity, and devotion on display in Christ-exalting music this last decade.
Enjoy the songs and praise God for the maturing creative excellence of contemporary Christian music over the last decade. May the 2020s bring an even greater array of new quality artists and masterful albums.
1. Josh Garrells, Love and War and the Sea In Between (2011)
Embracing the neo-folk movement of the early 2010s while injecting his songs with elaborately crafted soundscapes, hypnotic hip-hop beats, and deep theological truths, Josh Garrels took the Christian music scene by storm with his sixth record. An album made possible by early crowdsourcing, Garrels gave the entire work away for free on Noisetrade in 2013, with any “tips” going to World Relief. The exposure led to the documentary The Sea in Between and interviews with NPR and Huffington Post. Standout tracks: “Farther Along,” “Slip Away,” “The Resistance,” “Bread & Wine.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
2. Sandra McCracken, Psalms (2015)
With her distinct folk voice, Sandra McCracken created an album of transparent songs in both sound and subject matter . The album invites us into a journey of lament, yearning, and praise. In this, McCracken is doing nothing new historically. Yet this album beautifully represents the full range of the human experience in a way only the Psalms can. Standout tracks: “We Will Feast in the House of Zion,” “My Help, My God (Psalm 42),” “Sweet Comfort,” “Have Mercy.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
3. Andrew Peterson, Counting Stars (2010)
Crisp, melodic sounds, combined with beautifully transparent and poetic lyricism, made Counting Stars a memorable and enduring album in the 2010s. Andrew Peterson weaves vulnerability, hope, vivid imagery, and evocative worship throughout the album’s songs, including the classic “Dancing in the Minefields,” a song about the hardships of marriage but also the beauty of God’s promises that meet us in the chaos, the storms, the minefields of life. Other standout tracks: “Many Roads,” “World Traveler,” and “Planting Trees.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
4. John Van Deusen, Every Power Wide Awake (2017)
At times comparable to a noisier Sufjan Stevens, John Van Deusen ’s thoroughly original record is not your typical “worship” album. With songs that feel like psalms (“All Shall Be Well”), confessions (“Be Merciful to Me”), childlike praise (“No Limit to Your Love”), and a title track that packs an 11-minute emotional wallop, EPWA leaves the listener in utter awe before God. In the words of Van Deusen himself : “So, here is this album; full of songs: some loud, some quiet. Often hectic and immature; just like my prayers in the morning.” Standout tracks: “All Shall Be Well,” “None Other,” “Every Power Wide Awake,” “Be Merciful to Me.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
5. Liz Vice, There’s a Light (2015)
Soul singer Liz Vice serves up some retro magic in this debut album, which is Gospel with a little bit of R&B and ’60s-style funk. All but two songs were written for her by her pastor, Josh White, who was inspired by her rich, super-passionate voice—one that has earned her comparison to Aretha Franklin. “All of these songs are prayers—every single one,” Vice said. Standout tracks: “There’s a Light,” “Abide,” “Empty Me Out,” “All Must Be Well.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
6. Rivers & Robots, All Things New (2014)
Rivers & Robots live out all that it means to be indie worshippers. As self-proclaimed “ creative missionaries ,” they hold fast to their core value of using 100 percent of their profits for missions work. This album captures their heart for exalting Christ in creative and expressive ways. It has an innocent charm to it, uniquely British in sound, yet the musical maturity of a band confident in pushing the expectations of corporate worship. Standout tracks: “We Have Overcome,” “Fall Down,” “Shepherd Of My Soul,” “Voice That Stills the Raging Seas.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
7. Sho Baraka, The Narrative (2016)
8. Kings Kaleidoscope, Becoming Who We Are (2014)
Most likely your favorite artists’ favorite artist, Kings Kaleidoscope offered a glimpse of their creative future on this eclectic, wild, “more is more” debut. Influenced by indie rock noises, hip-hop samples, orchestral compositions, and Disney-style musical wonder, frontman Chad Gardner crafts his songs with emotional vulnerability and the sort of artistic intricacy that takes the work of many trusted friends to pull together. The result is a worship album that plays like a victorious, kingdom-bringing anthem. Standout tracks:  “I Know,” “139,” “Fix My Eyes,” “Defender.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
9. The Porter’s Gate, Work Songs (2017)
The Porter’s Gate debut is a visionary endeavor , bringing together a variety of artists (Josh Garrels, Liz Vice, Audrey Assad, Aaron Keyes, Madison Cunningham, and many more) to build up the church for the six days of the week beyond Sunday. While Works Songs has a stripped-down feel (there are no drums), there’s an overwhelming sense of power evident as each track was recorded live in a single take. Standout tracks: “Little Things With Great Love,” “Wood and Nails,” “We Labor Unto Glory,” “Establish the Work of Our Hands.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
10. Strahan, Posters (2012)
At times evoking Bob Dylan, Fleet Foxes, or Christian folk pioneers like Love Song, New Zealand’s Strahan Coleman strums his way to quiet transcendence in his exquisite 2012 debut album. The songs are often hushed and minimalist—creating a stripped-down ambience where the beauty of the lyrics and melodies, built on a Psalms-like spectrum of emotion, really shine. If David had a harmonica and a 12-string guitar, he might write songs like these. Standout tracks: “Deliverance,” “Vineyard,” “Hey New Wine!” “You’re the Dawn.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
11. The Gray Havens, Ghost of a King (2016)
The Gray Havens are a narrative-pop-folk duo known for catchy melodies, insightful songwriting , and intricate instrumentation. Ghost of a King was a welcome addition to the Christian music sphere, adding a unique blend of depth, beauty, and excellence in both sound and writing. Their 2018 album She Waits offers more of the same. Standout tracks: “Ghost of a King,” “Band of Gold,” “Diamonds and Gold,” “This My Soul.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
12. CityAlight, Yours Alone (2015)
Based at Sydney’s St. Paul’s Castle Hill, Australia’s CityAlight emerged in the 2010s as one of the decade’s most refreshing new worship bands. Combining theologically rich lyrics with uptempo, joy-filled, emotionally rousing music, CityAlight’s songs are beautiful and singable anthems readymade for congregational worship. In addition to this stellar debut album, don’t miss their 2016 album, Only a Holy God, and 2018 EP, Yet Not I . Standout tracks: “Jerusalem,” “Home,” “The Love of the Father,” “Yours Alone.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
13. Lecrae, Anomaly (2014)
Lecrae has long dominated the Christian hip-hop scene, and with Anomaly he also conquered the secular charts, becoming the first artist to debut atop both the Billboard 200 and Top Gospel Albums charts. His lyrical prowess is on full display on Anomaly , as he tackles the challenges any Christian—or any human—faces in everyday life. Through his intricate wordplay, he captures the feeling of being an outsider as a Christian in the music industry and the world. Standout tracks: “Welcome to America,” “Nuthin,” “All I Need is You,” “Good, Bad, Ugly.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
14. Psallos, Hebrews (2017)
This adaptation of Hebrews for folk rock band and chamber orchestra exhibits the incredible versatility of the composer, Cody Curtis, and the musicians, who move through the book’s various moods and themes in styles that range from bluegrass and Irish dance to hot jazz and slow hip-hop. Recurring musical motives and reprises form a connective tissue throughout. Psallos excels at creating artistically excellent music that illuminates the intricate beauty of Scripture. Standout tracks: “Ex Paradiso,” “The Old,” “The New,” “Two Mountains.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
15. Beautiful Eulogy, Worthy (2017)
Beautiful Eulogy ’s third album feels like an artistic and spiritual maturation for a group whose style has been called “hip-hop worship.” As its name would suggest, Worthy basks in the glory of God in a heart-pumping, full-throttle way. Drawing from a diverse musical palate and an impressive array of guests (Citizens, King’s Kaleidoscope, Aaron Strumpel, and so on) the album channels a crazy amount of Godward energy into an experience Owen Strachan called “one of the most elegant, powerful, faith-building albums I’ve heard.” Standout tracks: “If,” “Sovereign,” “Messiah,” “Doxology.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
16. Trip Lee, The Good Life (2012)
One of the best Christian rappers of the 2010s, Trip Lee has released several excellent albums in the last decade. But with its precise lyrical theology, dialed-in production, impressive guestlist (Sho Baraka, Jimmy Needham, KB, Lecrae, Andy Mineo and more), and joyfully subversive themes, The Good Life stands out. The album represents a milestone in a decade when Christian hip hop continued to mature, becoming a go-to genre for exposing audiences to Scripture and doctrine. Standout tracks: “I’m Good,” “One Sixteen,” “Take Me There,” “For My Good.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
17. Greg LaFollette, Songs of Common Prayer (2018)
The Book of Common Prayer is a collection of prayers, orders, and readings that has served the church well for centuries. In this album, Greg LaFollette puts the BCP to song. The album contains historic words and practices and pairs them beautifully with fresh music and singable melodies. In this work, LaFollette has created an uncommon blending of the ancient and modern. Standout tracks: “Most Merciful God,” “Mystery of Faith,” “Hosanna in the Highest,” “We Cry Mercy.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
18. Aaron Strumpel, Mighty Refuge (2018)
Aaron Strumpel has been a noteworthy, avant-garde, independent worship musician since the early 2000s, and I’m always intrigued by what he creates. True to form, his collection of updated hymns on Mighty Refuge is at times musically daring (even jarring), but at other times radically simple, foregrounding the familiar melodies and devotional tones of beloved hymns (from “Be Thou My Vision” to “Just as I Am”). Standout tracks: “My Hope Is Built (On You Alone),” “Spark My Heart,” “Just as I Am (You Can Have All of Me),” “How Great Thou Art (Fresh Cut Flowers).” ( iTunes | Amazon )
19. Citizens, Citizens (2013)
Rooted in the theological richness of the hymns that inspired the band’s inception and the musical heritage of their hometown, Seattle, Citizens created this loud, joyful, and triumphant debut record. Six years on, it still feels fresh. It’s an album—filled with impassioned shouts of the gospel, heavy guitars, and playful riffs—that has you nudging the volume ever higher as you yell along from beginning to end. Standout tracks: “In Tenderness,” “Made Alive,” “I Am Living In A Land Of Death,” “Oh God.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
20. Caroline Cobb, A Home and a Hunger (2017)
One of the welcome trends of Christian music in the 2010s was a number of great artists writing songs that more or less pull directly from Scripture. Singer-songwriter Caroline Cobb ’s A Home and a Hunger is a particularly lovely example. The album journeys from Genesis to Revelation and—like the Bible itself—alternates often between struggle and hope, restlessness and rest, hunger and home. Standout tracks: “Fullness of Joy (Psalm 16),” “Emmanuel (Every Promise Yes in Him),” “Only the Sick Need a Physician,” “There Is a Mountain.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
21. Poor Bishop Hooper, Foreign Made (2014)
Married couple Jesse and Leah Roberts are Poor Bishop Hooper , a two-piece indie-folk band based in Kansas City. Equal parts energetic and contemplative, the songs on their debut album are built around an acoustic guitar and upright bass, with many based on the lesser-sung parables from Matthew’s Gospel. Various voices—that of Jesus, the disciples, parable characters, Zebedee, a wounded saint—are deftly interwoven, creating a multifaceted picture of the Christian life. Standout tracks: “Treasure,” “Saints,” “Lamplight,” “Final Fire.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
22. Jess Ray, Sentimental Creatures (2015)
One of the best Christian singer-songwriters to emerge this decade was Jess Ray , and her 2015 debut “friendly folk” album is gorgeous in every way. The North Carolina artist writes songs that feel like quiet embers from a Smoky Mountain campfire, with lyrics that affirm God’s love and gospel truth. This is an album for rainy days, depleted souls, and runaways of every sort. Let it sing over you. Standout tracks: “Runaway,” “Too Good,” “In the Meantime,” “Headed for the Hills.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
23. Shai Linne, The Attributes of God (2011)
In the classic words of A. W. Tozer, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Eight years ago, hip-hop artist Shai Linne dropped an entire record devoted to helping us think higher thoughts about our most holy God. Shai may be the most talented Christian lyricist I’ve ever heard. For deep pedagogy and soaring doxology—a soundtrack for your theological journey—look no further than The Attributes of God . Each song celebrates a different aspect of our Lord’s multifaceted character. Standout tracks: “Our God Is in the Heavens,” “The Glory of God (Not to Us),” “Taste and See,” “Judge of All the Earth.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
24. John Mark McMillan, The Medicine (2010)
While many know of this album because of the song “How He Loves,” this debut release from John Mark McMillan represents a new standard for how an artist can write singable songs for the church while still embracing their unique artistry. Having released many other albums since, The Medicine stands out as establishing McMillan as an artist others look to as a voice of heartfelt honesty and worshipful reverence. Standout tracks: “Death In His Grave,” “Carbon Ribs,” “Skeleton Bones,” “Reckoning Day.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
25. Young Oceans, I Must Find You (2014)
Brooklyn’s Young Oceans was one of the best things to happen to worship music in the 2010s. Minimalist, atmospheric, Brian Eno-esque in sound, the band (affiliated with New York’s Trinity Grace Church) creates stunning sacred music via layers of distortion and slow burn reverb epics. Somehow sounding both ancient and futuristic, their sophomore album pushed the genre forward significantly, showing that worship music can be simultaneously faithful and daring. Standout tracks: “Lead Me,” “Only You,” “Until These Tears Are Gone,” “Praise the Lord, Ye Heavens.” ( iTunes | Amazon )
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