Top 10 Albums of 2015

Hey guys, it’s me, Christy. I see that it’s been a while since my last blog. If you’re wondering where I’ve been, the answer is that I’ve been living under a rock — the rock of everything Accounting. Since my last blog, I have started and completed a master’s degree, tacked on a few more international travel destinations to the list (sorry for not blogging about those travels — it was mostly school anyways), become 75% of a CPA (still working on that last 25%), and completed a year-long internship with the company that I’ll be starting full-time with in January! So I’ve been busy. However, now that I have some time on my hands again, I’m really hoping to get back to blogging at least a few times a year. It’s such a great outlet for me to express my faith, share stories about traveling, or just writing about something else I enjoy. In order to get back to it, I have compiled my annual list of my top 10 favorite albums of the year! I have gone one step further and even created a Spotify playlist with some of my favorite songs from each album that you can listen to here. (Adele is popular enough to not put her whole album on Spotify, so the only song you get from her is “Hello.” A couple other favorites include “I Miss You” and “River Lea.”)

1. Twenty One Pilots – Blurryface…I’ve been listening to this constantly since I discovered it back in May. Also fantastic is TOP’s previous album, Vessel. What I didn’t know about this duo was that they’re actually Christians. Their lyrics indicate that they are fully aware of the brokenness of mankind and the battle for the soul that is constantly raging. An interesting blog about it can be found here. I also had the chance to see them perform live for the first time this year (after almost going to all the Nashville shows they’ve had for the past three years). They killed it. It was probably my favorite concert I’ve ever been to. The guys were so creative putting together their set and making visual representations of their lyrics. Not only that, it was way hype!

2. Justin Bieber – Purpose…You might be asking yourself, “Self, how did Justin Bieber make it all the way to number 2 on Christy’s top 10 albums of the year list?” I would’ve been asking myself the same thing last year. But it seems that the Biebs has made an attempt to turn around his life. If you ever watched his documentary from a while back, Never Say Never, he claims to have been raised Christian. Based on the things his mother said in the documentary, I believe it. This year, Bieber has attempted to go back to his Christian roots to get his life back together. Apparently he even spent a little while living with a pastor in New York by his own choice to help this process. I think his change is genuine, and I think it’s apparent in this album. Songs like “Life is Worth Living” and “Purpose,” are just two on the album that I feel demonstrate this.

3. Ellie Goulding – Delirium…According to one of Ellie’s emails to her fan group, she released this album in honor of her best friend and the times they were “delirious” together. If I had a best friend who was an internationally known pop sensation, I know I would be feeling pretty darn awesome if she released an album entirely based on our relationship. What follows from it is, of course, super catchy songs that just make you want to get up and dance your heart out with your BFF.

4. Imagine Dragons – Smoke + Mirrors…Soundtrack of my winter. I must say I didn’t fully appreciate Imagine Dragons’ talent until this album came out. I thought they might’ve been a one-hit-wonder for their song “Radioactive,” but, alas, they released a killer album after that. I’ve really grown to love their sound, and I think they would probably be incredible live! (Shoutout to school for making me miss their last concert in Nashville — you stink.)

5. Adele – 25…Oh how I missed Adele. After going on a five year hiatus to do stuff like get married and have a kid, Adele is back! Whereas this album has gotten some flak for not being as good as her previous album, 21, I’m just so thrilled to have new Adele material again. My car singing got to be at a whole new level when 25 was released, but unfortunately, I don’t think my voice will ever have that awesome, strong, raspy sound that comes out of Adele’s mouth so effortlessly.

6. Zella Day – Kicker…I probably went to way too many Live on the Green’s (a music festival held on Thursday nights in the fall in Nashville that very well might be why I’m only 75% of a CPA) this year, but discovering Zella Day was definitely a perk of my heavy attendance. I would put her in the category of singer-songwriter with a sound somewhat similar to Lorde’s, and you guys know how I feel about Lorde. If you don’t, see my previous two years of top 10 albums. Kicker is Day’s debut album, and I would say that it does, indeed “kick” you know where. The chick is a lil’ weird and is a wannabe hippie I think, but she’s excellent at songwriting.

7. Bethel Music – Without Words: Synesthesia…Synesthesia is when you see certain colors when you hear certain sounds, for example. Whether you have this condition or not (it is a very real neurological condition), this album has a way of making you have it. They have a few videos out for some of the songs of a ballet dancer throwing different colors of powder along with certain sounds. It’s pretty cool — you can watch one here. Regardless of the meaning of the name, this album is probably one of the most beautiful sounding things that has ever come out of my speakers. Just as the title suggests, there are no words; it is simply the music behind many of Bethel Music’s songs.

8. Jon Foreman – The Wonderlands…Jon Foreman (lead singer of Switchfoot) did a thing this year where he played 24 hours of music straight to raise money for charity. As part of this event, he periodically released a series of four albums to make up The Wonderlands: Sunlight, Shadows, Darkness, and Dawn. To elaborate, each album is a collection of songs representative of that phase during a 24 hour period. Pretty creative, huh?

9. X Ambassadors – VHS…X Ambassadors pretty much took alternative radio by storm this year with their hit, “Renegades.” It also didn’t hurt that Jeep now has a car called the Renegade, and an ad campaign was created out of it. Not too shabby for a way to get your first single out there! The band now has a second song off VHS playing on the radio called “Unsteady,” and that’s when I was like, “Man, I gotta listen to the rest of this album!”

10. Brick + Mortar – Dropped…This was the band’s second 7-song album they’ve released in their tenure. I discovered them rather recently, and I certainly like what I’m hearing so far! If you’re looking for a good song to run to, “Train” works fabulously as such.

And there you have it! Another year coming to an end, another 10 albums worthy of making it on my list. And if you’re reading this, congratulations on surviving another year – may you see the end of many more!

Happy New Year!

“My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast. I will sing and make melody! Awake my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!”

Psalm 57:7-8

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10 Best Albums of 2014

1. Various Artists, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Pt. 1 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Props to Lorde, one of my favorite pop artists, for curating this outstanding soundtrack.

2. Bastille, All This Bad Blood
You really can’t beat getting 25 unique, catchy songs for $10. This album is an extension of Bastille’s album, Bad Blood, which was released in 2013.

3. Judah & the Lion, Kids These Days
J&tL hit the nail on the head with their debut full-length album, which was funded via Pledge Music by the way. Every song still has me singing along and doing my hippie dance. Not to mention their set for their headlining tour was so sick that I traveled three hours just to see it again. Also check out Judah’s solo worship EP he released this year, Harp & Arrows.

4. NEEDTOBREATHE, Rivers in the Wasteland
NTB has released several killer albums throughout their existence, and Rivers in the Wasteland is yet another one. Every single song is fantastic, and you should definitely see them live if you get the chance.

5. Dan + Shay, Where It All Began
I awaited this album for quite a while, and it did not disappoint. Love me some Dan + Shay.

6. Florida Georgia Line, Anything Goes
This album didn’t make as big of a boom as FGL’s previous album, but it stays true to their sound overall. I’m glad to have some fresh material of their’s to jam to.

7. Ingrid Michaelson, Lights Out
Two words: fantastic collaborations.

8. Nick Jonas, Nick Jonas
Two of the best things Nick Jonas could’ve done for his future career is to man-up a bit (as in shed his cocoon of teenage Disney Channel star and boy band member) and release a solo album that demonstrates the new phase in his life. I’d say he succeeded at both.

9. Elevation Worship, Wake Up the Wonder
It’s not often that a CCM album shows up on the charts, but this one managed to, and for a good reason at that. It combines worshipful lyrics with beats that you can actually tap your foot to…maybe even dance a bit. I’m not super into hymns or overplayed CCM songs, so albums like this one give me something that I can worship to and actually enjoy listening to all at the same time. On that note, Elevation Worship also released an album called Only King Forever this year, which is another winner.

10. Anberlin, Lowborn
It breaks my heart to say that this is Anberlin’s farewell album. They were a band for a good 15 years almost, so they decided it was time to pursue other things in life. But at least they decided to give fans some good, fresh music and a farewell tour before they disbanded. I was thankfully able to attend one of the last shows of their tour in Nashville, and I am so glad I was able to make it. Anberlin also released a Best of Anberlin album this year, which I would highly recommend checking out.

Honorable mentions because some decisions are just hard:

Nickel Creek, A Dotted Line
I was heartbroken when Nickel Creek broke up a few years ago, so I was ecstatic when they decided to release a new album and go on tour. A Dotted Line temporarily quenched my thirst for Nickel Creek’s sound, but it is so hard to beat the magic of This Side.

Ellie Holcomb, As Sure as the Sun
This was Ellie’s first full-length album, and it is beautiful. It’s not one you would jam out to, but it’s great if you want to hear truth sung from one of the greatest female voices on the planet. This album was also funded through Kickstarter, so shout-out to the fans who sponsored it!

Total Depravity

Total Depravity (n): the Calvinist doctrine that humankind’s entire nature, including its reason, is corrupt or sinful as a result of the Fall and that people are therefore completely dependent on God for regeneration. (Dictionary.com)

I don’t think I’ve ever noticed the evidence of “total depravity” more than I have over the past few weeks. I look left, and I see it. I look right, and I see it. I look ahead of me, and I see it. I look behind me, and I see it.

I see the news about Ferguson. Some people are doing everything they can to be heard. Great. Others are taking advantage of the situation and using it as an opportunity to commit crimes and wreak havoc.

I see how the holidays have become so commercialized. We spend Thanksgiving supposedly being thankful for all of the blessings we have and then turn around the next day (or even the same evening) and trample people for the things we don’t have. It’s truly appalling how materialistic America has become, which begs the questions: Are those material things really what matter in life? Do they matter enough to hurt people over?

I see the administration at universities across the nation, including my own, making claims about being transparent and student-centered. Yet when a question is asked, an answer is not given. When students express a need for something, it is ignored. What it comes down to is an obsession with making money. Again, is that what really matters in this life?

I see the South’s obsession with football. Don’t get me wrong, football is a great thing that brings the community together and is fun to watch. But we are a people of extremes. I see much too often people who get so into the games that their tempers are released, and they spend time provoking others and practically vomiting insults. It’s just a game…Does it matter so much as to ruin relationships over?

I see politics dividing the nation. I definitely have set stances on many political issues, but how many of the political actions that are being taken are sinful? Yet no one seems to see it?

In Mark chapter 12, a scribe asks Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all” (v. 28)? Jesus replies, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (v. 29-31). So what is love? It’s certainly not stealing from others. It also isn’t making sure you get the new Xbox before someone else. Nor is it idolizing money or football. It’s also not arguing with someone about what the right political action is. According to 1 Corinthians 13, the way of love is this:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

So how do we conquer total depravity? Well we can’t, but God can. It is only through Him that we can pour out the love we’re commanded to share. It makes my heart ache to see people who lack love, who are only living out of their depravity. I definitely don’t claim to not be the same way; I’m a living example of living out of depravity! But the difference is that I have the Holy Spirit living inside of me, and He allows me to see the sin in the world and draws me right back to God whenever I get distant.

May the Gospel be on our lips and in our hearts at every moment of every day. After all, that’s what matters in this life. Love is the key to living out the Gospel, starting from when God sent His one and only son to die for us sinners. Now, we are commanded to show that love to God and others. As He is the creator of the universe, He knows the best way for mankind to live, and that way is to spend life sharing the Good News and loving all, even your enemies, with all of your being as you pursue a relationship with God.

I yearn for the day that everyone can see God’s love and each other’s love no matter which way they look.

Cheat Sheets: 24 Ways To Be Happier

ASHLIN HORNE

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1. Learn to be confident. Not cocky, not in a I-think-everything-I-do-is-epic-and-incredible way. Be a humble sort of confident–the kind you can wear comfortably like an old worn out sweater, the kind that fits you just right.

2. Stop spending time with people who throw water on your fire. Stop pouring your dreams out to people who tell you they’re impossible and try to make you shove them out of sight. Walk next to people who are carrying their own torch and pushing you to keep running with yours.

3. Wear comfortable and reliable shoes. Really though, I know Target has super cute and affordable ones, but you need to invest more than $14 in something that you’ll be wearing to all the places you’re headed. Take it from me, it is really inconvenient to try and super glue the soles of your shoes back together in a foreign country.

4. Live with…

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The Words of a Thunderstorm

ASHLIN HORNE

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They called me a hurricane and said that my love would destroy every one in its path.

They told me to settle down, dry up, stop spinning. They begged me to stop shaking up their perfect little homes that hold the secrets and lies they’ve grown comfortable to keep.

They used to point to the ocean, telling me that’s where my kind comes from. In their not-so subtle comments and struggle to tolerate me, they would dig their shoulders into mine and try to scoot me back out to sea.

I knew I was a force, that I was strong, that something about my presence always seemed to be accompanied by wind and rain.

What I found out later was that, I’m a thunderstorm.

Lightening causes a rumbling sound; that thunder is the after effect of a really bright light. There is a roar that comes with that light. Things get loud…

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