Top 10 Albums of 2014

This is where the ‘semi-meaningful’ portion of my ‘post something semi-meaningful once a week’ comes in.

10. Portal || Lights

This definitely wasn’t my favorite album of the year, but it had some very memorable moments which is why it made the list. I’m not one to listen to a lot of electro-pop, but LIGHTS makes it bearable, and I appreciate that a lot.

“Out of the hands of safety, from the shallow to the deepest end, places we break and bend, You’re the one in it with me.”

9. Classics || She & Him

There’s nothing profound about this album. It’s just the lovely Zooey Deschanel and the very talented M. Ward’s interpretations of classic songs, and I could listen to it all day long.

8. Supermodel || Foster the People

I’ve listened to Foster the People on and off for a bit now, and I think Supermodel is by far their best album. It wrestles with a lot of interesting questions and concepts. It’s definitely worthy of a lot of listening.

“The right words in the hands of dissidents with the fire will rip apart the marrow from the bone of the liars
Well I’m afraid of saying too much and ending a martyr but even more so I’m afraid to face God and say I was a coward
Will all these things I wait for revelation. These things make me want to duck for cover. With all these things I wait for revolution. These things ask the biggest question to me and it’s are you what you want to be?

So are you what you want to be?

7. Diamonds || Johnnyswim

This album, I could listen to forever. It’s such a beautiful blend of truths and love. Their voices were pretty much made to sing together, and it’s quite obvious that they were meant to write together. If you haven’t heard it, it needs to move to the top of your list.

“In the wake of every heartache
In the depth of every fear
There were diamonds, diamonds
Waiting to break out of here.”

6. Fading West || Switchfoot

Jon Foreman and songwriting go very well together. Enough said.

“It feels like I could get lost today
The winds in my mind get swept away
And I’m gone, gone

And it’s one last time to the wishing well
I throw down the change and I wish them well
But they’re gone
Yeah, but we’ll carry on”

“You start to look like what you believe
You float through time like a stream
If the waters of time are made up by you and I
If you change the world for you, you change it for me

What you say is your religion
How you say it’s your religion
Who you love is your religion
How you love is your religion
All your science, your religion
All your hatred, your religion
All your wars are your religion
Every breath is your religion”

5. VA || The Last Bison

VA blew Inheritance out of the water. The Last Bison expanded their sound, and it just fits. I feel like Ben’s voice and songwriting skills strengthened tremendously in the time between the two albums. VA was definitely one of my favorite albums of 2014.

I’m lost in caves that have no end
Astray in caverns that begin
Yet when explored disorient
And I have waited patiently
to see such grace and mastery
personified to this extent

4. Borderland || John Mark McMillan

John Mark McMillan. There are lyrical gems found in every song on Borderland. Each song in beautifully haunting. They linger in your mind after each listen, until you make sense of each word and note. It’s so worth a listen. Or two. Two hundred? Just keep listening.

Monsters want to crowd my room
But on the night the cold wars bloom
You’re the only roof I’m standing under
Weep like willows, break like waves
We are fragile creatures on collision
With our judgement days

3. The Art of Celebration || Rend Collective

This one makes me smile each time I listen to it. Shout out to two lovely ladies I met in Jinja – Haley and Hannah – for introducing me to this album as we sorted foot notes on the floor of the Sole Hope Guesthouse.
I have trouble listening to modern worship music. When something toys with my emotions rather than engages my soul and mind, I just want to throw it as far as I can. While I have this issue with a few of the songs on this album, I find that Rend Collective has a more honest approach to worship than I’ve heard from many other bands recently. Some of it seems a little shallow and lacks originality, but there are lyrics on this album that just can’t be ignored and they are on repeat quite often. Now that I think about it, this album would be further down on the list, but I’m too lazy to switch it all around.

“The dark is just a canvas
For Your grace and brightness”

“Your heart is wild with colour
Like a never-ending summer”

2. Rivers in the Wasteland || NEEDTOBREATHE

NEEDTOBREATHE. If you want to talk about honesty in music – These are the guys to listen to. After a point where they didn’t speak to each other for over a month, Bo, Bear, and Seth came back with an amazing testimony of brotherhood and grace. It was incredible to see them live after this album came out. The dynamic they have together on stage now is amazing. I may or may not have cried when they sang ‘Brother’ collectively. The songwriting on Rivers in the Wasteland is top notch.

“We’re all strangers passing through a place and time afternoon
Life is but a vision in a window that we’re peeking through”

“Your love is like radiant diamonds
Bursting inside us we cannot contain
Your love will surely come find us
Like blazing wild fires singing Your name

God of mercy sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to Your design
May this offering stretch across the skies
And these Halleluiahs be multiplied”

“Brother let me be your shelter
I’ll never leave you all alone
I can be the one you call
When you’re low
Brother let me be your fortress
When the night winds are driving on
Be the one to light the way
Bring you home

Face down in the desert now there’s a cage locked around my heart
I found a way to drop the keys where my failures were
Now my hands can’t reach that far
I ain’t made for a robbery I could never take the world alone
I know that in my weakness I am stronger
It’s your love that brings me home”

1. Atlas: Year One || Sleeping at Last

Ryan O’Neal. I’m not exagerating when I say that I believe he’s the best songwriter on planet earth at this moment. Atlas is filled with stunning imagery and truth. Atlas is as good as it gets. All of this lyrical goodness is found on one album, and the music carries you through the story in such a triumphant way. If I could only recommend one album ever – it would be this one.

“smaller than dust on this map
lies the greatest thing we have:
the dirt in which our roots may grow
and the right to call it home.”

“some truths were sewn into our DNA.
some truths unravel and fray.
some truths keep growing taller than giants.
some truths take our breath away.
some truths get tired
the longer we wait.

some truths are gentle, forgiving and kind.
some truths are hard to define.
some truths are crooked, with rough edges too,
but some truths wear like comfortable shoes.

some truths are loyal
as the shadows we lead.
some truths are stubborn as gravity.”

“I set out to rule the world
with only a paper shield and a wooden sword.
no mountain dare stand in my way,
even the oceans tremble in my wake.

the tide is brave, but always retreats.
even the sand, it cowers under my feet.
my kingdom towers above it all,
while I sleep safe and sound in my cardboard walls.

the years wore on and changed my heart,
the leading role for a smaller part.”

“make my messes matter.
make this chaos count.
let every little fracture in me
shatter out loud.”

“you taught me the courage of stars before you left.
how light carries on endlessly, even after death.
with shortness of breath, you explained the infinite.
how rare and beautiful it is to even exist.”

“stitch by stitch I tear apart.
if brokenness is a form of art,
I must be a poster child prodigy.
thread by thread I come apart.
if brokenness is a work of art,
surely this must be my masterpiece.”

with golden string
our universe was clothed in light.
pulling at the seams,
our once barren world now brims with life,
that we may fall in love
every time we open up our eyes.
i guess space, and time,
takes violent things, angry things
and makes them kind.

“we are the dust of dust.”
“we are the apple of God’s eye.”
“we are infinite as the universe we hold inside.”

like fireworks we pull apart the dark,
compete against the stars with all of our hearts.
’til our temporary brilliance turns to ash,
we pull apart the darkness while we can.

may we live and die
a valorous life.
may we write it all down
in cursive light.
so we pray we were made
in the image of a figure eight.
may we live and die”

but even after everything we’ve seen
we’ve barely caught a glimpse of what it means.
in the architecture of the soul
the universe began with our eyes closed.”

your darkness will be rewritten
into a work of fiction, you’ll see.
as you pull on every ribbon
you’ll find every secret it keeps.

the sound of the branches
breaking under your feet,
the smell of the falling
and burning of leaves,
the bitterness of winter
or the sweetness of spring,
you are an artist
but your heart is your masterpiece.”

you fixed your eyes on us,
your flesh and blood,
a sculpture of water
and unsettled dust.

when there was bad blood in us,
we learned our lesson:
genesis to the last generation.

so we wrestle with it all-
the concept of grace
and the faithful concrete
as it breaks our fall.

we’ve heard it all before-
in beauty there echoes a speck of our source.
in beauty there echoes a speck of our source.”

maybe your light is a seed,
and the darkness, the dirt.
in spite of the uneven odds
beauty lifts from the earth.”

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