As a subject, Christianity is everywhere in pop music today. Whether in Kendrick Lamar’s new album, Eminem’s rapping about Jesus, Gang of Youth’s expletive-heavy faith reflections, or the growing number of LGBT+ folk singers who grew up in the church and now critique it through music (e.g., Julien Baker, Semler’s Preacher’s Kid, or Ethel Cain’s Preacher’s Daughter), the world’s largest religion is an unsurprisingly frequent inspiration in musical art.
But music that engages or references Christianity isn’t “Christian music,” just as movies that include Christian themes (though welcome!) aren’t “Christian movies.” And while it’s unhelpful to draw fixed borders around a definition of what Christian music is or can be, some sort of categorical boundaries are helpful. For me, those boundaries have a lot to do with worshipful intent: Is the music coming from an earnest desire to glorify Christ and an authentic, unapologetic love for God’s Word? Even if it’s not in the “worship genre” (whatever that is), does the music cultivate in listeners greater love for the Christian God? If yes, we can call it Christian music.
Given that broad definition, what follows is my assessment of the best Christian music released in 2022: best songs, best albums, and best EPs. Undoubtedly these picks reflect my personal tastes and shouldn’t be construed in an objective, “best out of every possible musical style” sense. But as someone who loves celebrating and sharing quality Christian music, I heartily commend these to you as works that are musically rich and devotionally edifying.
100 Best Christian Songs
You can find my picks for the best Christian songs of the year in a 100-song playlist on either Spotify or Apple Music.
7 Best Christian Albums
Here are my picks for the seven best overall album releases under the broad umbrella of “Christian music” (plus 10 honorable mentions).
1. John Van Deusen, (I Am) Origami Pt. 4 – Marathon Daze
The epic conclusion to Van Deusen’s four-part, five-year (I Am) Origami project, Marathon Daze is a prayerful collection that wrestles with the frailty of life and faith amid the hopeful assurance of God’s unchanging reality. As Van Deusen writes of the project’s title, “I am origami because I am a substance folded to become something greater than my makeup. But I am not the hand folding the paper, I am only the paper; a created thing that owes all glory and honor and power to my Maker.” The 15 songs on this album, along with the six songs on the accompanying EP, Content, represent the sort of lyrical depth and musical creativity that gives me hope for the future of Christian music.
2. Colorvault, Faint
In July, I described Colorvault as a “worship supergroup of sorts,” with a “spellbinding sound that blends techno beats, up-tempo electronica, and lyrics that sound like psalms.” Their debut album really is a stunner and unlike anything else in Christian music. Outside of Poor Bishop Hooper’s EveryPsalm Project (see next), Colorvault was the worship music that most nourished my soul this year.
3. Poor Bishop Hooper, Psalm 119
During the third and final year of their EveryPsalm Project—which I’ve called “one of the most impressive musical achievements ever in contemporary Christian music”—Poor Bishop Hooper released songs for Psalms 106 through 150. When they came to Psalm 119 in April, they went big (naturally!) and released not just one song for the psalm but a 22-song album featuring one song for every stanza, corresponding to the characters of the Hebrew alphabet. The result is impressive on its own, but it’s even more so in the context of the whole EveryPsalm project.
4. The Welcome Wagon, Esther
The fourth album from “pastoral folk” duo The Welcome Wagon (pastor Vito Aiuto and wife Monique Aiuto) is their best since their Asthmatic Kitty debut 14 years ago. Subdued, laid back, but bursting with musical joy, Esther is a feel-good album that doesn’t feel cheesy. A celebration of marital love, family, home, and the faith that envelopes it all, Esther (named after Monique’s grandmother) is like one family’s musical scrapbook that we can all flip through.
5. CityAlight, There Is One Gospel
CityAlight’s latest album of modern hymns for congregational worship is such a gift. For months this year, my 4-year-old requested “This Is the Day” as I drove him to preschool, and he and his brother delight to watch the Sydney-based band’s videos on YouTube. We at TGC are thrilled that CityAlight will be our featured worship band at our upcoming TGC23 conference, leading the thousands gathered in singing God’s praises together in Indianapolis.
6. Jonathan Ogden, Future Forever
Jonathan Ogden (formerly of Rivers & Robots), based in Manchester, U.K., is one of the brightest lights in contemporary Christian music, so it’s unsurprising that his debut album, Future Forever, is spectacular. He’s mastered a low-fi worship vibe that’s casually reverent and manages to be cool without being self-conscious. Featuring collaborations with John Mark Pantana, Darla Baltazar, Molly Parden, and Taylor Armstrong, Future Forever is utterly God-focused music to put on in your headphones, car, and household to center your heart on hope.
7. Mr. and Mrs. Garrett Soucy, From the River to the Ends of the Earth
Another pastor-and-wife folk duo (Garrett and Siiri Soucy) like The Welcome Wagon, Mr. and Mrs. Garrett Soucy describe themselves variously on their website as “honest-to-God local music” and a “lyrical rescue boat pulling souls from the meta-modern wreckage.” Their latest album’s title comes from Psalm 72:8: “May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!” Check out the album liner notes (published at Modern Reformation), where Garrett unpacks the album’s three main themes: (1) man and nature, (2) gospel and politics, and (3) God, repentance, and smallness.
Honorable Mentions: Elias Dummer, The Work, Vol. 2; Jess Ray, Born Again; Joshua Leventhal, All Ye Lepers; Kings Kaleidoscope, Baptized Imagination; LOVKN, Home Called Heaven; The Porter’s Gate, Climate Vigil Songs; Providence, Renovate Our Hearts; TEMITOPE, Marun; Will Carlisle, Hummingbird; Young Oceans, Subjects in Motion
10 Best Christian EPs
One of the ways streaming has revolutionized music is by making EPs the new normal for artistic output. These shorter song collections can be created and released more frequently, and at a lower cost, than full-blown albums. Here are the best Christian EPs I’ve heard this year.
1. John Van Deusen, Content
2. Garden Friend, Beulah
3. Tekoa, Hymns + Disparity
4. Tenielle Neda, Love ’Cause We’re Loved
5. Will Carlisle, SHEMA vol. 1
6. Nick Chambers, Great Cloud
7. Skye Peterson, Not So Sure
8. The Riverside, The Riverside Hymnal
9. Shadowlands, November Songs
10. Leslie Perez, When Will We Learn to Let Go?