1. Carly Rae Jepson – EM•O•TION
You probably only know Carly Rae for her 2012 hit single “Call Me Maybe,” but she is definitely more than a one-hit wonder. Referencing the trendy sounds of the 1980s within the context of her modern, sugary sensibilities, Carly creates on EM•O•TION the sonic equivalent of that ridiculous feeling one gets in the bottom of their gut when they finally drop the act and dance in a large group of people. From the shimmering saxophone at the beginning of “Run Away With Me” to the slow fade-out of slap bass and her emphatic ‘hey!’s at the end of “When I Needed You,” Carly Rae Jepson has gifted to you a 45 minute entrance to pop heaven.
Highlights: “Run Away With Me”, “Gimme Love”, “All That”, and “When I Needed You”
2. The Brilliance – Brother
On their debut album Brother, The Brilliance explore things such as contemplative prayer and societal injustice in casual and delicate ways through lyrics that seem to so easily highlight and bring new revelation upon various aspects of God’s character and His relationship with humankind. Statements like “When I look into the face of my enemy, I see my brother” so naturally serve as eye-openers to new understanding by just confirming what is known, while lines such as “Now and at the hour of our death / Amen” serve to bring new meaning and relevance to old religious mantras. This isn’t your typical, everyday worship album—and it’s fantastic.
Highlights: “Brother”, “Yahweh”, “Breathe”, and “Dust We Are and Shall Return”
3. Lindy Conant & The Circuit Riders – Every Nation
Lindy Conant, a student in the very first CommTrans DTS, takes the standard for worship music up a few notches with her debut album, Every Nation. Presenting a theme of allowing the gospel to transform the heart in a way that moves us to lay down everything for Jesus, this album seems to mark the beginning of an incredible missions movement within the mainstream. It’s not every day that one hears a worship song with lyrics like “Here comes another wave of revival”, “Simple obedience, it changes history”, or “Take courage, the harvest is ripe”, but Lindy is here to show that spreading the gospel is something every follower of Jesus should be doing—one empowering (and super fun) song at a time.
Highlights: “Every Nation (Every Soul)”, “Freight Train”, “Isaiah 6 (Here am I Send Me)”, and “Take Courage”
4. Sufjan Stevens – Illinoise
Marking itself as a tour de force in the modern era of music, Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois takes on the story of an entire state—with the help of maximal orchestration and what sounds like a few hundred musicians. Ranging from a stripped down folk song about the state’s most famous serial killer to a joyous, horn-filled celebration of the poet Carl Sandburg’s ghost, this 75-minute-long journey through tears, rhymes, Biblical allusions, and incredibly long song titles is one to be experienced rather than simply listened to.
Highlights: “Come On! Feel the Illionoise!”, “Chicago”, “Casimir Pulaski Day”, and “The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us!”
5. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
Written and recorded while he was isolated in a backwoods Wisconsin cabin for a few months, For Emma, Forever Ago is folk in the purest sense—singing about failed relationships in falsetto with a choir of himself and some skittering drums and slide guitar in the background. Although the lyrics can be a bit vague at times and the instrumentation a bit out of sync, For Emma never fails to feel immediately relatable and entirely human. It’s always a plus to listen to this album when it’s really cold outside and you’re bundled in a blanket with some hot tea (even though scenarios like that are usually difficult to come by in Hawaii.).
Highlights: “Flume”, “Skinny Love”, “For Emma”. and “Re: Stacks”
6. Branches – Songs for Christmas
Because you’ll be celebrating Christmas this year during DTS, why not recommend a Christmas album? On this E.P., you’ll find six reimaginings of classic Christmas hymns (including the best rendition of “O Holy Night” I’ve ever heard) that feature flawless harmonies, simple folk instrumentation, and a wonderful sense of nostalgia which is perfect for the Holidays. Although it’s kind of short and most likely won’t fill all of your Christmas music needs, Songs for Christmas will make a great addition to your holiday playlists.