2017 Year of Music -

I've been looking forward to writing this post all year! There's been SO much great music and I've never really sat down to share it with y'all. I use Spotify to listen to music, and since I spend a great many hours of my day working on the computer, I listen to A LOT of music. I just laughed at how many minutes it was this year. That's almost 500 HOURS of music in 365 days. Like, wow

 For one thing, I have no idea what Indiecoustica means or that it even existed but OKAY. 
Secondly, it doesn't surprise me at all that Aaron Zigman tops off the list because 
he's an incredible composer, and I played those top songs like hundreds of times this year. 

 Hahaha, this is probably because of all the Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard. I'm really a 43yr old. 

To listen to my Top 100 songs of 2017, click here!!! 

My Top Favorite Soundtrack Albums: 

1. My Sister's Keeper Score by Aaron Zigman -- This is my top soundtrack I write to. It's endlessly emotional, pain filled, peaceful and it never gets old. There's a reason it's in my top 100 songs multiple times. He's an artist and I love it. 

2. "UP" by Michael Giacchino -- Hands down one of the best scores ever written, in my opinion. I edit to this a LOT because it's so happy and joyful, yet can move a person deeply. One of the best parts of my year was hearing an orchestra play it live at Hollywood Studios with my Mama! I cried. 

3. "Hamilton" by Lin-Manuel Miranda -- I'm a self-proclaimed avoider of something so overly popular. Then one day I was in the death days of editing the thousandth picture (not kidding), and gave it a listen. I didn't move for 2hrs and 22mins. My heart would dance and drop in the sad parts. One of the saddest and most beautiful lines I've ever heard in my life is from "The World Was Wide Enough", when Leslie Odom Jr. sings "I hear wailing in the streets." The emotion is truly palpable. {Not for little ears though, since there is profanity in some of the songs.}

My Top Favorite Secular and Soul Albums of the Year:

1. "Covers" by Jillian Edwards (2016) -- This is one of my favorite artists and favorite albums. I love it when artists do covers and Jillian's voice lends such a joyful presence to these songs. "When a Man Loves a Woman" and "God Only Knows" are huge favorites, but I just love the whole album. A happy editing or working album and one I can put on repeat and not get tired of it. 

2. "From a Room: Volume 1" by Chris Stapleton (2017) -- There's a reason Chris Stapleton is on here twice in a row and that's because it's Chris Stapleton. His voice is one of the most amazing voices I've ever heard in my whole life and the amount of soul in his music is INCREDIBLE. I'll turn down ANY MUSIC ANY TIME to listen to 3 seconds of Chris Stapleton sing. Hands down. Period. Only he can release two albums in a year that are both just that dang good. Favorites on this album is definitely the much-repeated "Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning" and "Either Way" KILLS ME. Oh my word. 

2. "From a Room: Volume 2" by Chris Stapleton (2017) -- It seems impossible that someone could release such good albums months apart, but here we are again and this one is my favorite. "Millionaire" and "A Simple Song" are beautiful love songs sung with his wife Morganne, and "Scarecrow in the Garden" is so so good, but hands down the soulful ones I could weep and just break in half listening to are "Nobody's Lonely Tonight" and "Drunkard's Prayer". ALL.THE.PRAISE.HANDS. They are truly some of the most amazing songs I've ever heard: musically, lyrically, emotionally, instrumentally. I never listen to these songs sitting still. I'm a huge fan. I LOVE soul mixed with steel guitar, always have, always will. 

3. "The Thrill of It All" by Sam Smith (2017) -- Listen, y'all. According to Spotify, I've listened to 70 genres of music this year, and 1,247 different artists. But just like there is only one Chris Stapleton and there is only one BeyoncĂ©, there is only one Sam Smith. And he has killed the album game. The week this was released, I basically just kept texting Jasmine (my Sam Smith groupie) with words like "I can't even." and song lyrics and all the crying emojis. Just. WOW. Again.With.The.Soul. His voice is STRAIGHT BUTTER and I love how this album almost feels 50's. Favorites? EVERYTHING. Haha. "No Peace" with YEBBA made me BAWL for like a week. Holy crap. So many of these songs are just what you want as an artist, it connects so much with your life that it emotionally wrecks you all over again in the best way possible. "One Last Song", "The Thrill of It All" and "One Day at a Time". It's.......I don't have words. It's just 2017 wrapped up in one broken beautiful album. 

My Top Favorite Worship Albums of the Year:

1. "Brady Toops" by Brady Toops (2013) -- I recently suggested some artists to a friend, and in the message was this: "And Brady Toops! BRADY FREAKING TOOPS." This album....sustained me, built me up, carried me through 2017. I had "Make Your Home With Me" stuck in my head while clearing our oak tree downed by Hurricane Irma. Favorite songs? "Lord Have Mercy", "Make Your Home" and "O For Grace", but I love every single song on this album. His voice is golden and the way he built this album is intentional and old churchy soul with strong theology. I'd recommend it to ANYONE. Ever. I cannot rave about it enough!! Haha. 

2. "Work Songs: The Porter's Gate Worship Project Vol 1" by The Porter's Gate -- I found out about this album when I saw a video of two of my favorite artists ever singing TOGETHER: Audrey Assad and Josh Garrels. I immediately looked up the album, sat in my bedroom and wept. Though "Wood and Nails" was my first song I heard and cried over, it was this song that made it into my top 5 and swept me away with its words and melody: "In the Fields of the Lord" God has been using Garden/Harvest/Creation songs to remind me He is doing a work in me (and sending me to China), and this is one of the big ones for me. Also LOVE "Little Things With Great Love", "God the Maker", "Establish the Work of Our Hands" and "We Abide We Abide in You". I love this album!! 

3. "Psalms Vol 2"by Shane & Shane (2015) -- Even though I bought "Psalm 23" last year and it carried me through so much sorrow, I didn't listen to the whole album until this year. This album doesn't show up as much in my top 100 for a reason. I listened to it about 3 times on Spotify and then immediately bought the album on iTunes. It has encouraged me more than most albums in my lifetime, and the fact that the words are straight from the Psalms, I love that I'm actually memorizing Psalms while singing these. Most fav is Psalm 45, but honestly they are all my favorites. SO good. 

4. "Steadfast" Live by Sandra McCracken -- I heard Sandra McCracken being interviewed by the Relevant Podcast, and was driving home from the Orlando Airport. I listened to her 20 minute interview and cried through it. I could not stop weeping at what she was sharing. It was like my heart split open, and I immediately bought the whole album on iTunes. This album sustained me through packing up our house, evacuating to Tennessee during Hurricane Irma, and coming home to see so much work ahead of us. I remember distinctly doing an Instagram video in TN not knowing if our house was still standing with the words "Horizon to Horizon, Creation sings you Home." from the song "Love Will Bring You Home" and tears running down my face. This album is still one of my top played and goodness, has just blessed me so deeply this year. Hands down my favorite songs are "God's Highway", "Continuously" and "With Great Gentleness". I also listened to "Justice Will Roll Down" on so many days broken with the world and my nation's darkness in sin and injustice, and "All Ye Refugees". Obviously I love it a lot and will for a long time. The way her solid theology mixes with Gospel Soul and peace-driven themes has brought me great encouragement. 

5. "Glory to the Holy One" by Jeff Lippencott & R.C. Sproul -- I listened to this nonstop for the two weeks as Dr. Sproul was in the hospital and then went to be with the Lord. It will always make me cry now I think. My favorite songs are "The Secret Place", of course the glorious "Highland Hymn" and "Come, Thou Savior, Spread Thy Table". It's truly a powerful album rich with praise. 

My Top Favorite Christmas Albums: 

1. "O Holy Night" by Sara Groves (2008) -- My favorite Christmas album for many years! So peaceful and calming. It's a family favorite too. I think our favorite song would be "To Be With You".

2. "Prepare Him Room" by Sovereign Grace Music (2014) -- Since it's release in 2014, this has been my most played Christmas album, probably ever. "One Still Night" is a huge favorite as well as "Who Would Have Dreamed" and "Prepare Him Room", but the mournful "O Come O Come Emmanuel" is my favorite Christmas hymn and I play it all year round. We love this album! 

2. "The Light Came Down" by Josh Garrels (2016) -- It's no secret that Josh Garrels is one of my all-time favorite artists, and his Christmas album is no different. "The Virgin Mary Had One Son" is so good, and "Shepherd's Song" alwaaaaayyys makes me tear up, but "O Day of Peace" is my forever favorite. I love the benediction and blessing of an anticipated New Year, followed by "Come to Him" as an invitation and reminder of what Christmas is all about. Jesus come to us, and us coming to Him. It's an amazing album and I think the only one I don't like is "Merriment" because it reminds me of a circus and that freaks me out. hahaha. Just being real here. 

3. "Behold" by Lauren Daigle (2016) -- Lauren Daigle's album "How Can It Be" was the soundtrack of my first trip to China and so her voice will always be special memories for me. This bluesy "Nola" jazz Christmas album is a huge happy find for me, and "Light of the World" is just amazing. I put that song on repeat and wrote a whole post on grief during Christmas on it. It sums up Christmas 2017. 

4. "Christmas: The Peace Project" by Hillsong Worship (2017) -- Y'all, remember when I said God has been using Forest/Harvest/Creation songs to bring me to China? "Seasons" has made me weep and anticipate China ever since I found this album in November of this year. It's astounding and beautiful.  This was my top 2017 Christmas album, and right up at the top next to "Seasons" was "Prince of Heaven" (LOVE IT), and "Arrival" and "Theme of the Eastern Star" is a truly lovely piece of wonder that neatly interrupts everything, followed by the powerful "O Holy Night" and "Peace Upon the Earth" medley with Chopin's Nocturne op.9 No.2 is sooo so lovely. 

My Top 3 Life-Changing Songs of 2017: 

I just have to finish this with the top 3 songs that meant THE MOST to me this year, and I'm talking "The Holy Spirit used this to change my life in an unbelievable way". I'm telling you seriously that God intentionally sovereignly planned at the EXACT time to lead me to and give me these songs and I'm forever thankful. I can't make it through these songs without weeping at what God has done: 

1. "The Garden" by Kari Jobe (2017) -- Obviously this one. If you've seen my announcement video of my return trip to China in 2018, then you've heard this song. The last few lines make me shake my head in wonder: "Now I SEE redemption, growing in the trees. The death and resurrection in every single seed." I held that chunk of wood from our tree that had been growing for the past 2 years that only God knew was growing a "C" that would lead me back to China, and I just cry and cry. This song will always remind me of that and will always be special to me. He does heal our broken souls.

2. "When I Meet You" by Jenny & Tyler -- This song has been Clark's song since he was in the womb and I sent it to Kimberly & Ben and they danced in the kitchen to it. When I shot his newborn session, it was the only thing that calmed him down, and ever since he's been born it brings him peace. He loves it and so do I. It'll always be special to me. He's the best gift of 2017 by far!!! 

3. "In the Fields of the Lord" by The Porter's Gate -- This song. It has encouraged me every single time I've listened to it, and I've listened to it more than I can count. Every pain, every sorrow, every glory, every cross, every trial, every joy, every hope, every dream, God is using IT ALL to make me more like Him, and that is what I need to remember on the very worst and very best of days. "In the Garden of the Lord.....He is weaving every thorn into a crown." Because of Jesus. 

So there you go!! A LOT of music to listen to. I hope you give some of them a listen in 2018. 
With much love, and have a Happy New Year!!! 
- JM -