Six Standout Tracks of 2016

by Sam Robinson

There’s still time to vote in our 2016 Readers’ Poll (but time is running out!) – so if you need some inspiration, here’s the six songs that have stood out for our writing team in 2016. Do you agree with us? Did we miss anything? We’d love to hear below. Here are our picks in no particular order:

  1. Zach Bolen – 95 (from 1001)

The opening track on Zach Bolen’s debut solo album is all about the giddy feelings of leaving home for the first time, with a sound served best on a highway drive. As Zach told us, the song is filled with personal nostalgia:

‘[The 95 is] an Interstate highway on the east coast, from Florida past New York City, through the New England states. For me that was a significant road. When I left home, that was the road I drove twelve hours to go to college. It’s a bridge from where I started and ended… I always remember that drive, back and forwards by myself at night… Enjoying the solitude that came from it.’

  1. Trip Lee – Billion Years (from The Waiting Room)

The closing number from Trip Lee’s very recent mixtape, The Waiting Room, leaves a lump in your throat as Sweet Victory did on Trip’s last album, Rise. The song lifts our eyes from pain to the hope of glory, as Trip explained to us:

‘It’s the culmination of the album, and the culmination of all our hopes – the return of Jesus and eternity with him. So much of the Bible addresses enduring hardships by looking forward to the joys before us. I wanted to couple that lamenting the hard times with what’s going to be an incredible eternity with Jesus. I wanted to make that clear at the end of every verse.’

  1. The Digital Age – How Sweet It Is (from Galaxies)

In the year that Stranger Things made the 80s even cooler, The Digital Age dropped this synth-pulsating song of praise. The whole thing riffs off a classic hymn, as Mark Waldrop told us:

‘We wanted to say how amazing God’s grace is – and how sweet that is. Always being loved, always being known, always being pursued. Sometimes we forget God is always pursuing us, even when we feel stagnant. That’s my wife’s favourite song on the record, she plays it so much, so I’m getting a bit sick of it.’

  1. Sho Baraka – Here, 2016 (from The Narrative)

Smooth piano, snappy brass, a jumpy live beat, and a call for truth and faith to prevail? What’s not to love about this stellar cut from The Narrative? Even Lecrae can’t hold back from spitting a verse on this one. It’ll have you shouting ‘I’m here for that!’ in no time.

  1. Citizens & Saints – Relent (from A Mirror Dimly)

This track from Citizens & Saints’ third album is so downcast but moves to absolute joy, perfectly capturing the mood of the album. It gives me goosebumps at the bridge – every single time. Beautifully crafted and mixed, the song talks of singer Zach Bolen’s frustration to trust God in all things:

‘We took our time on this song. The lyrics – I felt these lyrics. I had to walk around around my living room and verbally process these lyrics. I find that I put everything I have into wanting things to go my way, and I just end up being tired. To be honest, it’s a place we go to a lot – we forget to trust God and think our way is better… The song describes being tired, but still having belonging in God. That’s exactly what I was feeling.’

  1. Kings Kaleidoscope – A Prayer (from Beyond Control)

While it may have been the most divisive song of the year amongst Christian circles due to Chad Gardner’s choice to include explicit language on one version, nobody can deny the authenticity of the dialogue between Chad and his Saviour, stunningly captured here with a hauntingly sparse sound. Chad shared with us the story behind the song back in June:

‘Those verses really are things that I have been terrified of before in my life. The fear that God will abandon me and that I will be in hell. Or the fear that I will run so far from God that I will escape his grace. I don’t think either of these things are true, but they are real things I think and the voice of fear… It’s not like I had to write those lyrics, that’s what it feels like. What comes out on the page is the voice of death and sin and fear.’

Do you agree or disagree with this list? What tracks should have made it that aren’t here? Comment below and let us know! And don’t forget to cast your vote for your favourite films and albums of 2016 in our Readers Poll before voting closes on December 22!

Connect with Reel Gospel on Facebook and Twitter.

Read our Six Standout Tracks of 2015.

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