It's been a particularly cruel, cold winter for much of the U.S. Thankfully for Christian music fans, Switchfoot sent out rays of sunshine via their latest release, Fading West, which had us California dreaming. It's hard to believe these guys are 17 years into their music career already, but when you listen, it's easy to see (and hear) that they've definitely earned their veteran musician status. But that's nothing compared to the long and diverse career of Charlie Peacock, who has produced music for Switchfoot and recent Grammy winners The Civil Wars. He also had a career as a Christian artist that began in the 1980s. His latest, Lemonade, is a departure, or maybe it's more accurate to call it a return, taking Peacock back to his jazz roots.
On the worship front, Casting Crowns didn't stray far from what made them Christian radio favorites. Thrive is full of big, anthemic choruses that encourage listeners to move past their circumstances. Meanwhile, Elevation Worship's music continues to track the spiritual journey of Elevation Church, creating praise songs that reach beyond congregational walls to appeal to almost anyone of faith. Worship artist Casey Darnell adds to the mix with a self-titled album produced by award winner Ian Eskelin (Francesca Battistelli, Sidewalk Prophets). Darnell wrote or co-wrote all 11 tracks, giving them a personal feel that goes beyond vertical worship.
The duo of Robby Earle and Molly Reed, aka City Harbor, released a self-titled debut that is a pleasing blend of organic and harmonic pop that explores the complexity of living out a biblical faith in our modern world. Not quite as new on the scene is TobyMac discovery Jamie Grace. Her sophomore album already finds her a Grammy nominee, and she nabbed a Dove Award for Best New Artist last year. Ready to Fly under-promises and over-delivers as this pint-sized vocal powerhouse soars.
Rounding out our list of winter favorites are My Epic's Behold, which marks the rock act's return to a four-piece; Epic Truth by Acquire the Fire, which we admit is less a band and more an event; and Micah Stampley's stirring gospel release Love Never Fails.