1. The Trumpet Child – Over the Rhine
This is without a doubt my favorite OTR release to date. It’s somewhat of a departure from from their more typical contemplative stuff, but I really like it. The songs are upbeat and playful – particularly in light of their previous album, The Drunkard’s Prayer. That album represented their journey through a rough patch in marriage (OTR is primarily the husband/wife team of Linford Detweiler and Karen Bergquist). This album clearly has them on the other side of that journey, still together and making great music. The jazzy feel to the tracks makes this album a fun listen. There’s not one song I dislike. For the story behind The Trumpet Child told by Linford Detweiler himself, check out this article from Paste Magazine.

2. Neon Bible – Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire is an indie band from Montreal. This most recent offering from them is replete with organ, a Hungarian orchestra, and a men’s military choir. These elements combine to produce a haunting overtone to the album. There’s clearly a longing for transcendence expressed in these songs, but the tracks also capture the reality of a jaded religious experience. There’s a deep skepticism of organized religion throughout as themes of hypocrisy, manipulation, and superficiality are all explored. Not only do you get quality music with this album, you also get profound insights into the thoughts and feelings of those who are disillusioned with religion in the modern world. You gotta pay attention to the lyrics with this one! If you want to read an interesting article about Arcade Fire from Paste magazine click here. There’s a terrific quote in the article about fear of God and fear of people.

3. Of Orphans and Kings – Mo Leverett
You’ve probably never heard of Mo Leverett but he’s one of my favorite musicians. Mo directed an effective New Orleans based urban ministry in one of the worst housing projects in the country before he and his family lost all their possessions in the wake of Hurricance Katrina. Desire Street Ministries, founded by Mo, is still making an impact but he has now concentrated his efforts on duplicating this ministry in other pockets of poverty through Rebirth International. I had the opportunity to take a class on urban ministry from Mo in seminary; this guy’s the real deal. Of Orphans and Kings chronicles Mo’s post-Katrina journey of coming to grips with loss and wrestling with God in the context of immense pain. As typical with Mo, the lyrics are honest and authentic, brought to life through his bluesy and folksy style. You won’t find any sentimentality in this music. What you’ll encounter instead are songs about redemption in the midst of the harsh realities of a broken world. For a review of this album written by a friend of mine click here. If you want to read an article from Paste magazine about Mo and his music check this out.

Honorable Mention:
In Rainbows – Radiohead
The Shepherd’s Dog – Iron & Wine
The Ringing Bell – Derek Webb

The conversation continues