Our annual best albums list includes the usual mix of clearly Christian and "secular" music. The loosely defined criteria for making the cut is essentially this: The album should indicate some sort of spiritual search, a quest for life's meaning. Sometimes the music comes from an orthodox Christian worldview, and sometimes not.

This year's winner, curiously, actually straddles a bit of both. Phil Madeira's Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us, a rousing compilation featuring various artists, features songs and artists that would clearly fit the CCM mold, and songs and artists who would not. And Madeira, the braintrust behind the project, is a little bit of both himself.

In an interview with Madeira when the album released in April, we wrote:

[Madeira is] a graduate of the fairly conservative Taylor University, but he wouldn't call himself a conservative—or likely even an "evangelical," for that matter. "My faith in Christ has moved me away from the organization we call 'the Church,' and into what feels like a more intimate and even mystical 'relationship' with the Spirit," Madeira says. He adds that he wouldn't disagree with universalism.
It's this "inclusive" theology, combined with the angry shouting of the 2008 presidential primaries, that prompted Madeira to want to do an album of "hymns for the rest of us," and thus the seeds for Mercyland were planted. Four years later, we now have a stirring collection of songs in the Americana tradition, much of it quite "Christian," with a bit of vague spirituality mixed in.

Read the full interview here.

Top Albums of 2012

Full reviews of the albums below are ...

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