When people ask me what kind of music I like, I find it hard to give a straight answer. There are so many genres and styles that inspire me, which makes narrowing down my favorites a challenging task.
But isn’t that the beautiful thing about music? It accompanies our every mood and moment. Since we are complex beings, the music to which we dance through life should be a complicated mix of genres.
Memories are sprinkled with melodies that, when heard, play a filmstrip of stories in our head. I love the unbreakable bond between music and nostalgia. So when I tried to come up with my list of favorite albums, I tried to remember pivotal moments in my life and the albums that became the soundtrack of those seasons. I’m certain I’m forgetting a few key albums but these are the ones that came to mind first, and I know they’ve earned a spot on my list.
INDIANA (Jon McLaughlin)
I’m from Indiana, so I may be a bit biased, but this album has been the soundtrack for much of my life since its release more than a decade ago. I have liked every single song that Jon McLaughlin has released, and I love that this particular album is great for car rides and has songs that point straight to the heart and walk you through life’s most human challenges.
RED SEA ROAD (Ellie Holcomb)
This album was my Summer 2017 soundtrack! I discovered Ellie’s music when I discovered Love Good, and now she’s one of my favorite artists. The music on this album was comforting during a season of uncertainty and healing, and I am so grateful for her vulnerability as she shared her story on this album.
CITY OF BLACK AND WHITE (Mat Kearney)
I’m prefacing this one by saying that I love all of Mat Kearney’s albums, but I find this one particularly beautiful. The songs are more melodically driven unlike his usual rap-influenced music; they’re easy to sing along to; and the lyrics tell stories of different types of journeys: geographic, relational, and personal. I will never get tired of this album.
ALWAYS (Kelli O’Hara)
People outside the world of musical theatre are probably saying, “Kelli who?” Kelli O’Hara is my favorite Broadway actress, and she is the Golden Age go-to in the industry. Her voice is like crystal–clear, bright, and sparkly, and her rendition of “How Glory Goes” will make you stop and reflect on your entire life. You think I’m kidding… but I’m not.
GREATEST HITS (Frank Sinatra)
Does it get any more classic than Frank Sinatra? I chose this album above all others because it’s a great catalog of his fan favorites. I find myself listening to his more mellow hits on rainy Autumn days and putting on upbeat hits like “You Make Me Feel So Young” when the sun is setting on a hot Summer night. So really, this is an all-year-round album.
KALEIDOSCOPE HEART (Sara Bareilles)
Like Mat Kearney, I love every album Sara has ever released, but this one comes in at the top of the list. The album opens with stunning a capella harmonies, transitions to one of the catchiest and upbeat songs I know, and follows up with peaceful tracks to accompany you through heartbreak. That girl knows how to take you on an emotional ride.
TELL ALL MY FRIENDS (Will Reagan + United Pursuit)
When I was living in New York City, one of my friends introduced me to Will Reagan right after this album came out. Will’s honest and straightforward lyrics helped me to cling to the right things when I could have easily chosen to cling to despair or uncertainty during some of the hardest months of my life. This album is a go-to on rainy days.
HEART (Audrey Assad)
All of Audrey Assad’s albums have a place on this list, but this particular album is my top choice. “Won Me Over” is one of my favorite feel-good tunes, but I can dig into some reflection time with tracks like “Lament” and “Breaking You.” Though I love her newer music as well, Audrey’s older albums spark memories of pivotal seasons of radical change.
STRUGGLE PRETTY (Penny & Sparrow)
Shoutout to my sister for introducing me to Penny & Sparrow many years ago! In moments of struggle (see what I did there?) or confusion when I’m not feeling like my usual positive self, this album helps me see the beauty in the journey. Penny & Sparrow’s harmonies captivate me and point me beyond myself… I can’t get enough.
BRAND NEW (Ben Rector)
Can anyone say road trip soundtrack? But on top of it’s bright percussion and feel-good melodies, the lyrics are incredibly relatable because they’re just about what it means to be human–to love, to hope, to share life with others, and to take time to look at your life and the choices you’re making. And it doesn’t get much better than that.