Texas’ Green River Ordinance is a band with compelling music and an equally compelling story. Signed by Virgin Records and releasing an album of well received and tuneful pop-rock a few years ago, the band walked away from the deal to go out on their own and call the shots, including embracing issues like human trafficking and the recovery of the Gulf Coast from the BP oil spill. All of this would just be an interesting side note if the music on Under Fire were not compelling, and (spoiler alert) it is. A long (by industry standards) and satisfying slice of guitar rock and southern harmonies, Under Fire is worth every penny, and a worthy addition to your playlist for this upcomming summer and any road trips you might have planned. Recommended highly for fans of Needtobreathe's southern harmonies and Switchfoot's epic and thoughtful guitar rock.
- Alex Caldwell
Our synopsis: "Funding the record themselves through Kickstarter allowed Green River Ordinance to throw everything into the skillet over the course of fifteen songs; the country music influences, the modern guitar rock, the worship element and cook up a gumbo that is just right...and that makes for a great story indeed.." (Recommended by JFH's Alex "Tincan" Caldwell) Song Highlights: "The epic title track "Under Fire", the worshipful and gosple-choir backed "Resting Hour", the romantic "Heart Of Me" and the encouraging "New Day"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the albumUnder Fire? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
One album that was very much worth getting excited about in 2012 was Paper Route's sophomore effort, The Peace of Wild Things. Its electronic soundscape bore a distinct 80s flavor that didn't sound dated, but instead utilized a retro feel that helped take the music in the appropriate emotional directions. Born out of terrible heartache, there's a sense of searching and healing that is contained within The Peace of Wild Things. Songs like "Glass Heart Hymn" are poetic yet familiar to a lot of listeners, as vocalist/songwriter JT Daly sends up a lamenting prayer. It's an album that sounds poppy and accessible at times but is surprisingly deeper than most music in the genre. Check out The Peace of Wild Things and see Paper Route on tour with Anberlin this spring!
Our synopsis: "Electronic pop at its finest. A heartbreaking yet rewarding listen for fans of modern and retro electronic pop." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Song Highlights: "You and I," "Better Life," "Sugar," "Glass Heart Hymn," "Letting You Let Go," "Rabbit Holes"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album The Peace of Wild Things? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Time to get retrospective with 2012. With our recent year-end staff picks, House of Heroes' latest album Cold Hard Want averaged in at third place amongst the entirety of the staff's individual votes. A couple listens to this alt rock record should reveal just why it connected with so many listeners. The HOH boys stretched themselves a bit, giving a unique and varied look at atlernative pop rock with this album. While it may not be as lyrically engaging as The End Is Not The End, it's still a catchy and intriguing listen; one that begs for many revisits. At a time when it's tempting to keep looking forward to 'the next big thing,' don't overlook this summer 2012 highlight.
Our synopsis: "A pop rock record with alternative leanings and plenty of meat on its bones. It's one of the highlights of 2012's hefty year of music." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Song Highlights: "Out My Way," "Dance (Blow It All Away)," "Comfort Trap," "Touch This Light," "Remember The Empire"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Cold Hard Want? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
"God Of Wonders" is sung every Sunday morning somewhere in the Western world (and beyond). But not many folks singing it would know the great artistic histories of its two songwriters, Steve Hindalong of longtime Christian Music vets The Choir and Marc Byrd, formerly of Common Children and half of husband and wife worship duo Glassbyrd.
Glassbyrd's Open Wide This Window shimmers and shines with beautiful guitar textures that are a Marc Byrd specialty and weaves the voices of Byrd and his wife, Christine Glass (herself a veteran of alternative Christian music in the 90's) in an atmospheric display. Opening number "Open Wide This Window" invites the Lord into our daily lives with the metaphor of opening a window to let the Spirit in like fresh air into a stale room. "Tonight (I Want To Live In Your World)" repeats this theme comparing life lived for ones self to living in "an empty room with bare walls" (and the song was later covered expertly by Jaci Velasquez). Closing number "Peace To You" echoes the prayer of St. Francis who wanted to be an "instrument of God's peace." The haunting acapella choir at the end of the song (and record) cinches Open Wide This Window as a beautiful and overlooked worship classic.
- Alex Caldwell
Our synopsis: "A worship release made by folks with a history of artistic integrity and cutting edge sounds and textures." (Recommended by JFH's Alex "Tincan" Caldwell) Perfect For: Worshipful moments of beauty and introspection that is just a bit more mature than the average worship record. Recommended for fans of Sixpence None The Richer, The Glorious Unseen, The Choir and the City On A Hill recordings Song Highlights: "This Window," "Tonight (I Want To Live In Your World)," "Peace To You"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Open Wide This Window? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
My dad is about as blue collar a guy as you're likely to meet. As a fisherman in Maine, he has owned almost twenty different pickup trucks in my life time (and surely many more before I was born) and a wardrobe made up of ten pairs of jeans and ten flannel shirts. He has one or two pairs of "fancy clothes" for going to church in and comes home at the end of the day and collapses into his favorite chair.
I knew when I first heard Big Tent Revival's Open All Nite that it would be the kind of album that he would dig, and I was right. I bought it for him as a Christmas gift and it didn't leave his truck's CD player for years. (I suspect it was still in the stereo when he traded his truck in for a new one.) He would blast it for anyone who was riding with him that day and talk about the songs as a way to introduce people to Jesus. When I was home from college on summer break, I always knew when he was coming home from work because I would hear those songs coming over the hill as he drove home with the windows down and the radio cranked up to unreasonable levels.
It's great when a gift you give really delivers, and I knew when I heard Open All Nite's opening track "Mend Me" that it would speak to guys like my dad. He is far from perfect and sometimes would feel like folks in our church who looked and acted more respectable had it all together while he struggled to reflect Jesus. When lead singer Steve Wiggins offers up a stark confession that, although the singer stands on a stage in front of you (seeming like someone who has it all together because he has been given a microphone), "he can't escape this life of sin." Like the Apostle Paul "what I want to do I don't do, what I do I don't want to do", and finally the honest (and throat shredding) confession "I am broken, mend me."
Songs like "Here With Me" "The Best Thing" and "Famine Or Feast" rock with abandon and sound great in a pick-up truck, but also manage the neat trick of speaking to the everyday trials people go through without talking down or at their audience. Wiggins and company testify to how God works in the everyday against a great rock and roll backdrop that echoes classic rock albums by Bruce Springsteen and The Eagles.
A few years later I got Big Tent's follow-up album Amplifier for my dad's birthday and he lit up with a huge smile when he opened his present. At last! New music for the pickup truck!
- Alex Caldwell
Our synopsis: "A classic late 90s southern pop rock record that still remains the best in Big Tent Revival's catalog...and it still sounds great today!" (Recommended by JFH's Alex "Tincan" Caldwell) Perfect For: Encouragement on a tough day when the bills are due, or riding in a pickup truck Song Highlights: "Mend Me", "The Best Thing In Life", "Here With Me", "Famine Or Feast"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Open All Nite? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Ten years ago, then-Essential Records folk pop artist Bebo Norman released one of his best projects, Myself When I Am Real. When Bebo first debuted, his music was considerably more stripped-down and folk-based than people have probably come to know him for in recent years. By 2002, Myself When I Am Real was probably the most accessible Bebo's music had ever been to date and it was still pretty true to his intimate and honest folk roots. In between this album and his latest, Lights of Distant Cities, there have been five more Bebo albums, coupled with a home label migration to BEC Recordings, with most of those albums having an increasingly more pop and contemporary sheen leaking in and overtaking the sound Bebo had originally been known for.
Currently, Bebo is married with children, but for years, loneliness was something that plagued the heart of this young man seeking the heart of God. Even with a family, loneliness is something that can affect a believer, and Norman's transparent and emotional songs have been some of his best. "Beautiful You" begs "Please don't go away, please don't leave me here, I know if you don't stay, my heart will disappear. I need beautiful You." Then the worshipful "Great Light Of The World" cries, "Oh great light of the world fill up my soul / I’m half a man here so come make me whole / Oh great light of the world come to impart / The light of your grace to fill up my heart." It's just a gorgeous picture of brokenness and a prayerful honesty acknowledging our need for a Savior! These are just a couple of the many highlights on Myself When I Am Real - an album that remains one of Norman's career best!
Our synopsis: "Accessible folk pop with transparent and honest lyrics that acknowledge a lonely heart and the need for its only remedy - our Savior!" (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Transparency, Quiet Times, Worship, Encouragement Song Highlights: "Our Mystery," "Beautiful You," "Great Light of the World," "Back To You," "So Afraid"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Myself When I Am Real? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Zilch started off as dcTalk's touring band and featured now widely-known producer Mark Lee Townsend (Relient K, Supertones, and The Wedding) on guitar and lead vocals.When the guys decided to record their own material, Toby McKeehan was there to help, and released the album on his then three-year-old label, Gotee.The band's mix of influences shines through on the mostly alt-rock album.The band that didn't really take themselves too seriously named their album Platinum to ensure they had a "platinum release."On top of that, they covered "My Hero, Zero" by Schoolhouse Rock! and featured bassist Otto "Sugar Bear" Price as the narrator.Perhaps the funniest moment on the album is the disclaimer at the end of "Hero Zero" that claimed King David and [Gheorghe] Zamfir would have been good friends because they both played "flute-like instruments".
While the band was quick to joke, they also had plenty of seriousness in their lyrics.They took a look at and responded to a couple of secular hits of their day on "In the Sky" ("One of Us" by Joan Osborne and "Counting Blue Cars" by Dishwalla respectively), which was one if their most spiritual songs and proclaimed God’s presence in our lives by saying, "God's not in the sky; He's here with you and I."
The band replaced Mark Lee Townsend, who stepped down a year after this release, with an unknown singer named Jeff Deyo.The label encouraged a full-length praise and worship album due to the band's tendency to play them live.After some opposition from the band, the eventually embraced the idea and changed their name to SONICFLOOd.If you've ever seen dcTalk live, you've probably seen Zilch, or at least part of them.If you missed this album in the 90s it's worth a listen today.It may sound a little dated, but it's full of goodness.Do yourself a favor and take a stroll down memory lane.
Our synopsis: "A fun retro pop rock record from dc Talk's live band. Do yourself a favor and take a stroll down memory lane."(Recommended by JFH's Michael Weaver) Perfect For: Friendship, faith, multiplication, good clean fun Song Highlights: "Good”, “Everything”, “Hero Zero”, and “In the Sky"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Platinum? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
As the August 7th release date for Sixpence None The Richer's long-delayed brand new album Lost In Transition is upon us, it's got me thinking over the band's history of music making. A decade ago, in 2002, Sixpence released their last non-seasonal full-length studio album, entitled Divine Discontent. Don't let the bleak title fool you though; there's a pop airyness to this record that makes songs like "Breathe Your Name" (which you may still hear on mainstream radio from time to time), "Tonight" and their cover of "Don't Dream It's Over" fun songs to listen to. But fans of the melancholy artsy-ness of Sixpence None The Richer will soak up songs like "Down and Out of Time," "Still Burning" and one of my all-time favorite songs by any artist, "A Million Parachutes." Let's not forget "Dizzy," a song that likens God's shaping of us to being clay being molded by His hands, spinning on a potter's wheel. Divine Discontent is a beautiful, diverse collection of artful pop that still sounds wonderful ten years later. Check it out before picking up Lost In Transition on August 7th!
Our synopsis: "Artful pop that is often catchy enough for radio fans but thoughtful and reflective enough for fans of indie music. It's one of Sixpence's best." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Reflection, loneliness, love, and a little worship Song Highlights: "A Million Parachutes," "Breathe Your Name," "Dizzy," "Still Burning," "Don't Dream It's Over," "Tonight"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the albumDivine Discontent? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Tal & Acacia, for whatever reason, just never really took off when they hit the scene.Despite the fact that their debut album on Essential Records, Wake Me, was full of catchy indie pop goodness with captivating voices (and was even supported with a tour alongside Superchick), Talitha and Acacia Wulfing’s first foray as signed artists just didn’t sell well and we never got any word of a second album.But with the news of a new album recorded independently and a Kickstarter to make it happen in the works (www.kickstarter.com/projects/1766081804/us-you-new-record), the sister-sister duo is indeed back, and listening to Wake Me once again renews my enthusiasm for this group.While I think I enjoy this album in a slightly different way than when I first heard it in 2009 (I still have minor gripes about the somewhat hokey “Garbage In”), the charming and soothing nature of this debut is unmistakable three years later.With their debut to keep me hopeful, I pray that Black & White will be a reality; Tal & Acacia didn’t make our Highlighting 2012 Second-Half list for nothing... this duo is one of the best kept secrets of this industry.
Our synopsis: "An underappreciated indie pop album, this 2009 gem is ripe with fun and contemplative melodies, always ready to make your day a little brighter." (Recommended by JFH's Roger Gelwicks) Perfect For: Relaxation, Uplifting, Encouragement Song Highlights: "Clearview," "Yahweh," "Wake Me (Noah's Song)," "Drifting Away," "Warrior Child"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the albumWake Me? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
I used to love making my own mixtapes and CD's over the years, but with the wonder of iTunes, iPods and iPhones, having your own personal, practically perfect, radio station has become much more of a reality. You can have your favorite songs in one location and merely hit "shuffle" and have a unique assortment of tunes you like.
Lately, as I've been listening to a lot of my music on shuffle, my library keeps bringing me back to this album. Sarah Kelly's Where The Past Meets Today was a unique and emotional journey of a young woman who was deep in an abusive marriage and the tragedy and triumph she experienced through it all -- and eventually being rescued from it. Where The Past Meets Today is a very personal album for Sarah, but one that anyone struggling with hurts in their own life can relate to. Her eyes are always fixed on the Prize in Jesus, while this, her sophomore album, probably focused more on the circumstances than looking beyond them to praise her Heavenly Father despite everything, it was still clear with Whom her hope lied.
Her albums, when looked at collectively, tell a beautiful story of grace and redemption. Her debut, Take Me Away, was a worship album that literally was her heart crying out for God to rescue her from the pain of her abusive marriage. Where The Past Meets Today was born out of the process of being freed from that relationship and moving past it, and the album that followed, Born To Worship, was an act of praise after she had been redeemed and healed from the pain. Her most recent album, Midnight Sun, is a mix of worship and songs that were birthed from a heart brimming with love and gratitude.
Where The Past Meets Today is undoubtedly her darkest record, but there's also a lot of beauty to be found in it. Whether she's singing about wanting to have a romantic relationship that's healthy and wonderful the way God intended ("Fall Into You") or she's singing about finding clarity and life through Christ's eyes ("In Your Eyes"), or just being hopeful through the lonely times ("About Midnight"), it's a wonderful album with a lot of heart and depth. Check it out, and if you'd like to get a free download of the title track from her latest album, Midnight Sun, check out our FREE debut indie mp3 compilation, Songs We've Been Trying To Tell You About (And Others We Haven't), Volume One!
- John DiBiase
Our synopsis: "Brutally honest classic rock record that bares the soul of Christian music's truest sweetheart. Sarah is a light in the darkness." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Brokenness, Depression, , Perseverance, Hope Song Highlights: "About Midnight," "Out Of Reach," "In Your Eyes," "Fall Into You," "Remember Me Well," "Hold On Love"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the albumWhere The Past Meets Today? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
I'll never forget listening to Plumb's lullaby album Blink for the first time. For me, it'd be almost three years before I even knew what parenthood looked like from that perspective, but I remember letting the beautiful harmonies and Tiffany's soft vocals wash over me as I sat in an easy chair listening to the songs on my iPod. It's one of those albums that transcends its target audience and becomes much more than what it's conceived to be. Although Blink holds so many more new meanings for me now with a little one of our own in the picture, it's still a gorgeous album that should not have its listeners limited to just young parents or children. Plumb crafts a record aimed at parents while also delivering soft melodies that work just as well for little ones to listen to. But fear not! This is not a "childrens" album by any means. You won't find any silly songs or the musical equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. Blink is pure bliss. (And be on the look out for a brand new regular Plumb album due out sometime this year!)
- John DiBiase
Our synopsis: "Plumb's beautiful and soothing lullaby album, Blink, is much more than just an album for young mothers or babies. It's a beautiful pop album that should not be overlooked." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Lullabies, Relaxation, Quiet Times Song Highlights: "Sweet & Lovely," "In My Arms," "Solomon's Song," "Always"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the albumBlink? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Ever since I was in my mid-teens, I've experienced the unique phenomenon where a band -- or in this case, an album -- doesn't really strike a chord with me until I have experienced it live. Bands like Code of Ethics, Bride, Sixpence None the Richer, John Reuben, and more recently Seabird and Remedy Drive, were all artists that I didn't appreciate until after I had seen them live. Years ago, I almost immediately enjoyed Leeland's debut Sound of Melodies, and then especially took to their follow-up, Opposite Way, which contains what may be my favorite track from the band (the title track). Recently, I had the pleasure of seeing Leeland perform a hearty number of songs from their newest record, The Great Awakening, and their live performance, coupled with front man Leeland Mooring's passionate and inspirational talks, stirred my heart to worship.
Since that show, I've been spinning The Great Awakening more than I did when I had first heard it last summer. I hadn't love the band's more radio-friendly third album, Love Is On The Move, which colored my first impressions of The Great Awakening unfairly. Their newest effort is a balanced blend of pop, worship, and just enough of an indie feel to keep it all feeling relatively fresh -- and it's an album that becomes more and more rewarding with each listen.
So if you've yet to give Leeland a chance, or they may have lost your attention an album or two ago, pick up The Great Awakening (or check it out via Spotify first?). It's one of the best worship projects of 2011.
- John DiBiase
Our synopsis: "Leeland's latest is an indie-flavored pop worship album that gets better with each listen. It's one of the more rewarding listens in its genre." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Worship, Encouragement, Revival Song Highlights: "The Great Awakening," "All Over The Earth," "Chains Hit The Ground," "Pages," "Not Afraid Anymore," "Unending Songs"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the albumThe Great Awakening? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Independent rapper Heath McNease recently released a magnificent new album called Thrift Store Jesus. But just a few months prior to that, he dropped a full-length mixtape with hip hop buddy Playdough. Wed, White & Wu was seventeen tracks of Heath, Playdough and some guests rapping over some classic Wu Tang Clan beats. The beats are raw and untouched as far as production, and the guys went all out with the lyrics. They flexed their skills and brought along some fire-filled guests such as Guilty Simpson, RedCloud, The Bodega Brovas; all of whom ripped it up. As Playdough said in a recent interview, "we're rapping our butts off on it." Yes, they were. It's not often that an album/mixtape comes out that I still listen to on a regular basis even a few months later. But this one hasn't gotten old yet. This is available as a free download on a joint Bandcamp the two created. Whether you're big fans of these dudes or you've not so much as heard their names, if you like genuine hip hop with high quality, lots of style and some humor, check out Wed, White & Wu.
- Scott Fryberger
Our synopsis: "An excellent mixtape that does the Wu justice while still maintaining the Heath & Playdough personalities." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Fun, great raps, Wu Tang fans Song Highlights: "#CougarSwag," "You Know My Steez," "Survival of the Fiddest," "The Ego Has Landed," "Gravel Spit”
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Wed, White & Wu? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
For the few who do not know, I'm more picky about worship music than I'd like to be. It makes it difficult for me to find music to worship the Lord to.
So even if I only find a few songs on a record I really like, it's a big deal to me. When I first heard Kari Jobe's sophomore album, Where I Find You, only a song or two seemed to strike a chord with me. It wasn't until watching her lead thousands in worship in person at Winter Jam that her music clicked more with me. It's songs like "Steady My Heart" and "Find You On My Knees" that really hit home with me on a personal level. While I must admit that Where I Find You isn't my ideal go-to worship album as a complete collection of songs, several of the songs -- especially those near the beginning of the record -- really stand out. Jobe's honesty and transparency is evident and her passion was truly tangible upon seeing her live performance--and that comes through in her music.
If you're picky like me about worship music, I can't guarantee Where I Find You will be up your alley; a great deal of it sticks pretty close to what's familiar to the genre on a stylistic level. But if you're okay with something a little more in the middle, Kari's latest is certainly worth a spin -- especially "Steady My Heart," "We Are," "One Desire" and "Find You On My Knees."
- John DiBiase
Our synopsis: "Kari Jobe's second full-length album may not break out much from the worship genre framework, but there are enough gems on this project that make Where I Find You stand out a bit from the mix." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Worship, Brokenness, Humility Song Highlights: "Steady My Heart," "We Are," "One Desire," "Here" and "Find You On My Knees"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the albumWhere I Find You? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
I had liked David Crowder*Band for some time before I actually owned any of their albums. I had heard DC*B's music, and fallen in love with A Collision, but I don't think I actually owned an album of theirs until Church Music came out. John hyped it up to me, and since we usually agree on worship bands, I went to Rhapsody when it came out and listened to it from start to end, and it was great. It's hard to experiment with music and make it good (not to mention keep the entire thing worshipful), but Crowder and band seem to have it down pretty well. He's very skilled at conveying what his heart is feeling with more than just the same cliches, and he can make the listener feel it too. "The Nearness" celebrates the closeness of God to us while "Can I Lie Here" imagines what it would be like to be immersed in His Spirit. The center of the album features two slower (and beautifully-done) cover songs; a rendition of the popular "How He Loves" by John Mark McMillan and a slowing down and re-imagining of Flyleaf's "All Around Me." It's such a good worship album, and it's so deserving of the [surprising] Worship Album of the Year Dove Award for that year. If you loved A Collision but haven't really felt anything from DC*B since then, Church Music will restore your faith in this incredible band.
- Scott Fryberger
Our synopsis: "An incredible and heartfelt experimental worship album." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Despair, hope, worship Song Highlights: “The Nearness," "We Are Loved," "All Around Me," "How He Loves," "Church Music - Dance (!)," "Oh, Happiness”
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the albumChurch Music? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
With the popularity of the third-wave ska movement came a similar and more short-lived movement: Swing Revival.While many Christian bands jumped on the third-wave ska bandwagon, really only one band joined the swing crowd from the market.The W’s joined the likes of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and other secular artists for a short, three year and two-album career; their first of which was entitled Fourth From the Last.
While the album was spiritually relevant at times, at others, it was just plain funny, and yet other times nailed them both.I still remember watching the video for “The Devil is Bad.”The song was the biggest hit of the album and featured the band playing live at a swing club, a hysterical children’s lesson on felt board, and it got even better as the band started dancing around on a background exactly like the felt board.For some reason the track has always stuck in my head and I think it always will.
“Moses” is another fantastic song that ponders the thought, “How can God ever use me?I’m just a nobody.He sees everything around me.What does he see in me?”The song reminds us that no matter how insignificant we feel, God can use us for His glory.“Frank” is a wild tale of a man looking to punish the W’s for playing their music too loud.“King of Polyester” continues the fun as a great song about a bowler and his perfect game, and “Alarm Clock” is a telling of a rather unusual series of occurrences that is discounted as, “…just an average day.”
Was this the best album of 90s?Not by far, but it is a completely fun listen and a great trip down memory lane.This CD tends to end up in my player at least a couple of times a year.If you have this album, dust it off and give it a listen.If you don’t, it is available through your on-line retailers; do yourself a favor and check it out. They even managed to win two Dove Awards in 1999.I promise you’ll love this one.
Our synopsis: "A gem from the Swing Revival that will always be a stand out in my heart."(Recommended by JFH's Michael Weaver) Perfect For: Encouragement, Good clean fun, and the best bowling song known to man. Song Highlights: "The Devil is Bad," "Moses," "Open Minded," "Frank," "Alarm Clock"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Fourth From The Last? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Anyone who knows me knows I'm pretty picky about worship music. This isn't anything I'm proud of at all, of course, especially since it makes it very, very difficult to find worship music I can turn off critical ears toward and worship my Savior with. Part of it may be because worship music hasn't changed much since the late 90s and part of it is more than likely because, due to running a site like JFH for 15 years, you can tend to hear more music than your usual worshipper, so it can be tough to move past the feel that worship music seems to be stuck in a neverending, barely evolving musical rut.
So when I find worship music that moves me, it's something to celebrate.
Up from the ashes of Jackson Waters comes a worship duo that is comprised of the band's former vocalist, David Leonard, and a new musical partner, Leslie Jordan. Signed with Integrity Music, the pair released their first EP in 2011 with a second one on its way for January 17, 2012 and a full-length album releasing in March (containing the 2 EPs plus a few new ones). Brokenness Aside EP No. 1 is a lovely collection of intimate, personal worship songs that express praise and laments in a refreshing package. Leonard's signature and stylized vocals are a nice change from the worship standard, while Leslie's vocals add a sensitive side. This pair is worth checking out and following as they continue to bring us new tunes to sing on our knees.
- John DiBiase
All Sons & Daughters Brokenness Aside, EP No. 1 (2011)
Our synopsis: "Modern worship that breaks the mold just enough to be refreshing." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Worship, Meditation, Humility Song Highlights: "Alive," "Let It Shine," "All The Poor And Powerless," "Brokenness Aside"... OK, the whole thing.
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the albumBrokenness Aside, EP No. 1? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
In 2007, Jars of Clay released an impressive modern Christmas record with a classic feel, titled Christmas Songs. As someone who was weaned on the kind of Christmas music my parents grew up on, I'm a sucker for any new Christmas music that even has a hint of what resembles real "Christmas music" to me (plus, I just plain dig Jars). Now, four years later, the guys have released three new recordings: two covers, one original, aptly titled More Christmas Songs. It may not be quite as good as their previous full-length, but anyone who enjoyed that album should like these new additions. Also, the guys take a slightly more acoustic approach here than their recent projects.
- John DiBiase
Our synopsis: "A nice extension of one of CCM's best Christmas albums." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Christmas time! Song Highlights: Well... there are only three songs on here, but the best might be their original, "Almost Christmas"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album More Christmas Songs? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Part one of the trilogy about the USS Gloria, So Far From Home was the first album from astro-rock, Five Iron Frenzy side project, brave Saint Saturn. More emotional than most Five Iron Frenzy songs, So Far From Home explored love ("Moon Burns Bright"), losing a loved one ("Two-Twenty-Nine"), as well as the personality and life of Jesus ("Under Bridges" and a cover of Michael W. Smith's "Rocketown"). The story of the USS Gloria didn't seem to begin until bS2's second album, but they successfully utilized the concept of the loneliness of outer space as a metaphor for how lonely life can be. And the band made some great electronic-rooted acoustic pop rock to go with it.
- Scott Fryberger
Our synopsis: "The first of three albums from an outstanding side project." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Worship, Humor, Love Song Highlights: "Space Robot 5," "Shadow of Def," "Resistor," "Under Bridges," "Rocketown," "Gloria"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album so far from home? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Dan Smith, formerly known as Listener as a part of the Deepspace 5 collective, got together with guitarist Chris Nelson, and then applied the name "Listener" to the duo's band name. Listener's latest offering Wooden Heart is a treasure amongst indie rock albums. The music doesn't really follow any rules of music, unless it wants to. Listener makes use of ukeleles, electric guitars, trumpets, drums, and several other instruments, and they just go with whatever they feel they need to play. Smith's lyrics are pure poetry, with some aggression and LOTS of imagery. The highlight is the title track, "Wooden Heart," which speaks heavily of trying to survive our human condition through God's love and a community of fellow believers. It grips my heart every time. A lot of the songs are reimagined versions of poems Smith has already written and recorded, and I can't help but love what the band did with them. Wooden Heart is a HUGE departure from past Listener albums, but if it's where the band is going, I'm on board for the long run.
- Scott Fryberger
Our synopsis: "Passionate and poetic indie rock music." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Loving people, survival Song Highlights: "You Have Never Lived Because You Have Never Died," "Wooden Heart," "Falling In Love With Glaciers," "Failing Is Not Just For Failures," "Building Better Bridges," "You Were A House On Fire""
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Wooden Heart? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Ah, Blindside. These Swedish hard rockers arrested my attention in 2002 with the release of Silence. That album was an intriguing mix of hardcore elements with a melodic rock sound. While it may still be one of my favorites by the band, their follow-up About A Burning Fire further developed the sound they began experimenting with on Silence. This formerly all-hardcore band was keeping the screaming/singing blend going, but kept evolving their sound to be more melodic and accessible. Having been released in 2004, it's a record that has not only stood the test of time, but - in this reviewer's humble opinion - it was superior in every way to the album that followed it, The Great Depression (I realize some diehard fans love it, and to each their own, but to me it can't hold a candle to Silence or About A...). From the blistering opener "Eye of The Storm" to the risky ballad "Shekina" to pulverizing closing title track, About A Burning Fire was truly a unique journey and one of the highlights of this great rock band's career.
- John DiBiase
Our synopsis: "Heavy, soft, melodic, chaotic - About A Burning Fire is a rock album that still sizzles seven years later." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Worship, Spiritual food-for-thought, Encouragement Song Highlights: “All Of Us," "Follow You Down," "About A Burning Fire," "Eye of the Storm," "Across Waters Again," "Where The Sun Never Dies"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the albumAbout A Burning Fire? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
If you looked up "hard-working musician" in the dictionary, and for some reason it was actually in there, you might find Heath McNease's name somewhere in the definition. When he's not touring, he's working on his next project. He's dropped two so far this year, and has at least one more planned for release before year's end. The second album he put out in 2011 is a free mixtape with For Beats' Sake based all on Nintendo games. Straight Outta Console: The Nintendo Thumb Mixtape features 8-bit NES music converted into modern-style hip hop beats, with McNease's excellent skill on the raps -- not to mention a slew of talented emcees making guest appearances. The majority of the time, McNease just has fun, rapping about video games teaching your mom how to dougie. Those looking for spirituality will find a little in "Mmm...Donuts!" but it's really recommended just for enjoying some quality hip hop. I loved McNease's music before, but this mixtape cemented him as one of my top current emcees. It also gave me even more appreciation for For Beats' Sake's talent, as he demonstrates his creativity from beginning to end. Check it out...you've got nothing to lose except about an hour of your time.
- Scott Fryberger
Heath McNease Straight Outta Console: The Nintendo Thumb Mixtape (2011)
Our synopsis: "Hip hop and Nintendo games? Need I say more?" (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Fun and fans of quality hip hop Song Highlights: "Tanuki," "Chopstlevania," "Mmm...Donuts!" "Style Points," "LATFH," "Bonesaw's Ready"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Straight Outta Console? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Among the musical surprises of 2010 was the sophomore release from Tooth & Nail Records rock band, Ivoryline. While their debut album There Came A Lionwas an admirable debut, it didn't quite leave the impression that Vessels does. Some records impress at first listen while others slowly grow on you with each following listen. At the same time, there are some records that seem less impressive or memorable as years pass; very few records maintain a level of excitement when you hear them later on. Vessels is among those few. A catchy and anthemic rock album that is packed with spiritual meat without being completely direct all the time, and showcasing fantastic, passionate vocals from Jeremy Gray, Vessels is just one of those records that may even improve over time.
- John DiBiase
Our synopsis: "One of the best albums of 2010 will be a favorite for years to come. Some of Christian rock at its finest." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Peace, Encouragement, Rock N Roll Song Highlights: “Instincts," "The Healing," "Search Me Out," "Vessels," "Hearts Open” ... pretty much the whole record.
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Vessels? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Anyone who's been reading JFH faithfully for a number of years has probably noticed that I'm picky when it comes to worship music. I'm not proud of it, because I find it very difficult to find worship music that I enjoy listening to AND that can spark my heart to worship along to. I think it boils down to just not really caring for the standard style of most of the modern worship scene (and let's face it... if you've been listening to this kind of music as long as we have, you notice it's a style that's been done to death), so when an artist does something truly different (and I can stand the vocals -- another thing I'm picky about and not proud of), I get excited about them. Two years ago, I was completely caught by surprise by David Crowder*Band's Church Music. The title alone scared the pants off of me. I half-expected another Tomlin or Hillsong effort just judging by the title. Instead, my ears were met with music that was equal parts fun, intriguing and emotional - especially the band's superior cover of "How He Loves" and a wonderful rendition of Flyleaf's "All Around Me." Almost two years later, it's still a worship record that's a real joy to listen to... which makes the recent announcement of their farewell tour this Fall all that more painful to ponder.
- John DiBiase
Our synopsis: "One of the best albums of 2009 is still a significant highlight amongst the worship music genre." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Encouragement, Praise & Worship Song Highlights: “How He Loves," "All Around Me," "Can I Lie Here," "SMS (Shine)," "God Almighty”
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the albumChurch Music? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Although their faith somehow got a little shuffled and disconnected with their most recent record, Lifehouse still remains one of the larger examples of Christianity in the mainstream today. This couldn’t be any truer when speaking of their 2007 release, Who We Are. From the stark imagery of Jesus rescuing us from drowning in the troubled waters of life (“Storm”), to a desperate plea for healing (“Broken”), the band truly drives home their message of faith on this record. And no one can deny the appeal of the insanely catchy hooks on tracks like “First Time” and “Who We Are.” As to where their music will continue to take them as the years continue to roll by, time can only tell, but at least we’ll always have Who We Are to hold on to…
- Logan Leasure
Our synopsis: "Lifehouse proved with this record that they are still the band that we have always loved them for…" (Recommended by JFH's Logan Leasure) Perfect For: Healing, Hope, Finding God, Encouragement Song Highlights: “Who We Are," "Storm”
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the albumWho We Are? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
God kind of has a funny sense of humor. The first time I ever heard anything by Sixteen Cities, I was doing Christmas shopping in Hollister (a clothing retailer known for their heavily secular values); "Sing Along" was playing and its lyrics and catchiness intrigued me. That was December of 2009, and after interviewing them a year ago for JFH, it says something to me that Sixteen Cities is still relatively fresh in my mind. The one thing that really drew me into this band was their effectiveness in making worship music relevant to a younger generation of listeners. Songs like "Winter" and "Captured By Your Love" dug deeper than a lot of the other general noise I had been hearing from different Christian artists. It remains true now. I don't recommend passing up a track-by-track listen of Sixteen Cities - better late than never.
- Logan Leasure
Our synopsis: "A standout alternative worship album from one of Christian music's most underrated bands…" (Recommended by JFH's Logan Leasure) Perfect For: Worship, Finding God through music Song Highlights: “Winter," "Come As You Are," "Sing Along”
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the albumSixteen Cities? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
According to recent reports, the demise of Tooth & Nail punk rock group Capital Lights may be slightly exaggerated. However, as it stands now, the band has only left us two items to hold onto: One lone, but touching Christmas song, (“His Favorite Christmas Story”) and their outstanding debut, This Is An Outrage!. Since Capital Light’s album was released in the same year as Children 18:3’s self-titled debut, calling it the best punk rock project of the year will always be disputed. But it sure is a beauty behind such snappy, catchy songs like “Outrage” and “Work It Out.” Bryson Phillips provides the ideal lead vocals for the entire 12 track adventure, and they particularly shine on subtly brilliant “Mile Away” and the quirky “Let The Little Lady Talk.” The album finishes with the strangely captivating “Frank Morris,” a well orchestrated and written finale that details the escape of four inmates from the infamous prison Alcatraz. Spiritual content is low except for “Return,” a song in which the singer talks about the end times. Hopefully we have not heard the last of Capital Lights because the greatness of This Is An Outrage! demands an encore.
- Nathaniel Schexnayder
Our synopsis: "A terrific punk/rock album from a group who disbanded far too early.."(Recommended by JFH's Nathaniel Schexnayder) Perfect For: Looking back, looking forward, and fist-pumping fun Song Highlights: “Outrage,” “Out Of Control,” “Mile Away,” “Work It Out,” and “Frank Morris”
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the albumThis Is An Outrage!? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
It’s been over a decade and a half since the height of the third wave ska movement.The O.C. Supertones were able to help spread the movement into the Christian music industry because of the success of acts like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Reel Big Fish.Matt Morginsky and crew had several good albums throughout the course of their career, but none of them were ever quite as good as Adventures.
Adventures, a ska masterpiece, remains my favorite ska album of all time.While their second, Supertones Strike Back, Five Iron Frenzy’s Our Newest Album Ever, and The Insyderz Fight of My Life are all superb 90s ska albums, I always come back to Adventures to get my ska fix.The album is loaded with can’t miss, sing-a-long tracks.There isn’t one bad apple on the 36 minute, 12-track debut.Lyrics don’t get much better than “He Will Always Be There” as Morginsky proclaims, “I didn’t even know who God was, then He told me He’s my Dad. And it’s because He loved and He’d rather die than live without me, He loved me and He’d rather go through Hell then go to Heaven without me. And I’ll love Him and I’ll stay with Him until the end of time.One thing I know: God gave his life for mine!”
Though the Supertones started leaning towards a more unique hip-hop/ska approach, they never lost sight of the message.I still remember Jason reading from the Bible on stage almost every time I saw them.I just stood amazed that this crazy band was reading the Bible when other people like Steven Curtis Chapman weren’t doing anything similar.If you were too young, or just sleeping through the mid-90s, this album is a must have.
Download it immediately!!!
- Michael Weaver
O.C. Supertones Adventures of the O.C. Supertones (1996)
Our synopsis: "The album and band that helped to usher in the third wave ska era into the Christian industry."(Recommended by JFH's Michael Weaver) Perfect For: Faith, Hope, Redemption, and of course skanking Song Highlights: "Adonai," "Who Can Be Against Me, ""Heaven," "He Will Always Be There," "Found"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Adventures of the O.C. Supertones? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
With her first studio album in almost six years releasing this week, it seems only fitting to look back at the previous recordings of Rebecca St. James. While listening to her new album I Will Praise You, I found that her previous 2005 record, If I Had One Chance To Tell You Something followed alphabetically in my iTunes and I'd often let it play after I Will Praise You would finish. I honestly had forgotten how much I'd enjoyed the ridiculously long-titled album from Rebecca. It seemed to be a mostly underrated release, but offered memorable songs like the heartfelt prayer of "Forgive Me," where RSJ sang with BarlowGirl, and the anthemic rockers "God Help Me" and "Alive." Rebecca's passion for Jesus has always been infectious and her regular studio albums have often consisted of encouraging and easily relatable and transparent songs. Whether she's singing of brokenness or the love of Christ, If I Had One Chance To Tell You Something set out to encourage and bring hope to listeners, and it certainly did that. Maybe it's not RSJ's best, but it's an album that still sounds pretty good today. And the worshipful tracks "Take All Of Me" and "Lest I Forget" are still great ways to express our love to the Savior. - John DiBiase
Rebecca St. James If I Had One Chance To Tell You Something (2005)
Our synopsis: "Rebecca's last rock / pop record is a memorable one, and perfect for weary souls looking for some hopeful anthems to help them refocus their gaze and keep on." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Encouragement, worship, hope Song Highlights: "God Help Me," "Alive," "Forgive Me," "Shadowlands," "I Can Trust You," "Take All of Me"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album If I Had One Chance To Tell You Something? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
I confess, as much as I profess my love for artsy folk music, I really didn’t get to know Andrew Peterson until about a year ago. But when I first heard last year’s Counting Stars, I was left floored by his lyricism and wondering what I’d been missing for the last decade. In just a few months, I began the journey of building up my AP collection and exploring his back catalog. I could recommend any of his albums with confidence, but The Far Country was one that especially struck me with its brilliance and beauty.
Peterson has described this one as an album about death, and therefore about Heaven too. With just enough pop production to be accessible without quelling the folk singer spirit, lyrics that draw from theology, literature, and his own life and family are the true star of this album. (Nerdy reader types will especially appreciate the Lewis, Tolkein, and Buechner references woven throughout.) In fact, the entire price of admission is worthwhile just to hear these lines from “Lay Me Down”: “I believe in the holy shores of uncreated light / I believe there is power in the blood. / And all of the death that ever was, if you set it next to life / Well, I believe it would barely fill a cup.”
Our synopsis: "One part pop-folk, two parts poetry, The Far Country is a deep and inviting introduction to one of Christian music’s finest writers you might’ve never heard."(Recommended by JFH's Jen Rose) Perfect For: Uplifting reflections on life’s journey toward Heaven and/or the mood for literary, yet down-to-earth songwriting Song Highlights: "The Far Country” “Lay Me Down” “Little Boy Heart Alive” “The Havens Grey"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album The Far Country? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
It’s hard to believe that it has been 14 years since Audio Adrenaline released their hardest rock effort, Some Kind of Zombie.With all of the great music that Mark Stuart and company released over the years, Zombie seems to be a forgotten jewel.After a recent listen (actually two), I was reminded how great the album really was.Audio A strayed from the 70s feel of Bloom and went to a more modern alt/rock feel.
Though there were only ten tracks on the album, most of them strike gold.“Chevette,” “Original Species,” and “Some Kind of Zombie” are easily favorites, but where the album gets really good is with the Supertones backed “Blitz.”I still remember them playing the song live together while touring for the album.That show remains one of my favorites to this very day.“God Shaped Hole” also remains one of the band's greatest songs in their long and illustrious career.
While it was sad to see Audio Adrenaline say “adios,” it’s nice to be able to listen to their older material and smile.Zombie still holds up to today’s standards for good alt/rock music.If you overlooked this album in the 90’s because of the greatness of Bloom and Underdog, give it a listen now; I promise you will not be disappointed.Though it’s not their most popular by far, it is easily one of their best.
Our synopsis: "One of the best alt/rock albums of the 90’s from one of the top Christian rock bands of all time."(Recommended by JFH's Michael Weaver) Perfect For: Faith, love, and Godly living Song Highlights: "Chevette”, “Original Species”, “Blitz”, “Lighthouse”, “God Shaped Hole"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Some Kind of Zombie? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
The last couple years in the history of Future of Forestry have certainly been interesting.With the release of a magnificent trilogy of EPs found in the Travel series as well as a sequel to their finely-crafted Advent Christmas EP (not to mention Credential Recordings recently releasing a “best-of” collection of the band’s work), Eric Owyoung and friends do a effective job of staying consistent and memorable in their listeners minds.Stepping back from their current course, however, one should not forsake where FOF first began in 2007’s Twilight.
It’s a shame this record shares its title with a certain series of novels dealing with vampires and werewolves, but ignoring these regrettable connotations, this record has one of the best ethereal rock sounds this industry has seen.Flawlessly mixing unique worship and masterful instrumentation, tracks such as “All I Want,” “Gazing,” and “Stay Beside Me” wonderfully exemplify congregational worship without sacrificing an artistic tendency.Many songs carry long instrumental periods without vocals full of resounding guitars and keyboards, which prove to be just about as powerful as the lyrics.It’s also worth mentioning that the title track is sincerely one of my favorite love songs of all time, capturing the tensions of entering communication with both the Lord and a loved one (“When we sat down to pray/if you saw my eyes/You'd know I just couldn't close them/not all night”).It’s this atmospheric, echoing style that makes Twilight so distinctive and so unforgettable.
It’s astonishing to believe that this is the only official full-length album from FOF, but hopefully it won’t be the last. Though the band has evolved quite a bit in their existence, including untraceable personnel changes and opting for shorter, more frequent projects, Twilight is a record no fan of both worship and rock genres should bypass.
Our synopsis: "Ethereal indie rock with a propensity of worship fuel Future of Forestry’s unashamed and dexterous 2007 debut." (Recommended by JFH's Roger Gelwicks) Perfect For: Divine Romance, Adoration and Worship, Self-reflection Song Highlights: "Open Wide,” “All I Want,” “Twilight”, “Sunrising,” “If You Find Her”, “Stay Beside Me"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Twilight? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
I'm going to go out on a limb here, as I usually do with these recommendations, and feature a little known project by a band called Between Thieves. I often find myself recommending music on here that would be deemed fairly old (maybe even out-dated), but I think part of the bonus of this recommendation blog series is to encourage people to check out good music that has been long forgotten.
In 1997, the now long-defunct record label Tattoo Records released the self-titled debut album from Between Thieves. It was an unashamedly pop rock effort with boldly faith-filled lyrics that often bordered on being worship music before there was really a modern worship movement. The opener "Despite The Rain" is an excellent, encouraging song about fighting feelings of guilt and focusing on joy and freedom in Christ. It's one of those albums that really reached into my soul as a teenager and related to the tough times while also injecting a lot of hope -- it kind of brought light to those painful times and encouraged the listener to refocus their viewpoint away from themselves and onto Jesus. "Kindle" was another wonderful track pleading the Lord to "kindle the flame and rake the coals, purify my inner soul." and "Consuming fire in my life, let the spirit take control. It's finally time I realize that I am not my own." "Now" is another gem that follows in a similar fashion while "To The End" addresses sticking to our convictions and not slipping from them despite outward influences. "Take My Hand" is a lovely song about a couple becoming one through marriage and uniting with Christ. Amy and I actually used it as our wedding song. It's not a conventional, over-used song you normally hear at weddings, which was also pretty appealing (and I think its rock ballad style is more fitting for me). Finally, one of my favorite songs of all time is the closer, titled "Privately." It clocks in at just over seven minutes in length and is an electronic-glazed soft rock song that addresses loneliness and the inability to shake it sometimes. But Between Thieves, like with each song, brings the focus back to Christ in the final verse, "Refuge for my spirit, catch my silent tears / Speak to my heart, oh Father with words I cannot hear."
The band's follow-up and, consequently, final album, Water, wasn't quite as good or memorable, but their self-titled debut is one that has stuck with me and I expect it to be one I'll continue to return to from time to time for many more years... - John DiBiase
Our synopsis: "A unique and under-rated alt-pop/rock late 90's record that still sounds good even today..." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Forgiveness, Perseverance, Loneliness Song Highlights: "Despite The Rain," "Now," "Kindle," "Take My Hand," "No More," "Privately"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Between Thieves? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
For a guy who puts out several EPs a month with six different projects, you might think that Andrew Huang goes for quantity over quality. However, the man is consistently solid with very few missteps along the way. One of his best pieces of work is his album Autumn from his indie/folk/pop rock project, Your Heart. This album took a few listens before I really got into it. At first, I liked it. Then, I liked it a lot. Now, I love it. He's great with honest, and sometimes cryptic, lyrics, and his talent with musicianship (and almost any instrument imaginable) shines in tracks like "Circles" and "O! What A Lie!" I know it's scary to take a chance on independent artists these days, with countless people out there who make music and probably shouldn't, but you can rely on just about anything that Andrew Huang puts out. And Autumn may be his crowning achievement. ~ Scott Fryberger
Our synopsis: "A great indie album that will leave your heart satisfied." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Love, life, heartbreak Song Highlights: "Never," "Circles," "O! What A Lie!," "Lantern," "Your Heart"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Autumn? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
I was sitting here trying to think of a project to recommend for this week, and when I opened iTunes, "Say" by PFR came on. Like a warm blanket or a steamy cup of hot cocoa on a frigid evening, the melodic vocals of Joel Hanson and the encouraging lyrics of "Let me hear you say 'It's ok.' Let me hear you say 'It's alright.' I could really use some words that comfort so I won't be alone tonight." set to a lovely piano pop sound enveloped me. After debuting the recent blog that highlighted Audio Adrenaline's Hit Parade record, someone wisely commented that PFR's Late Great PFR collection was another excellent hits record done right. PFR was at the top of their game when they told the CCM world that it was time to hang it up. Them was their swan song -- and a gem at that. From the aforementioned "Say" to the rocking opener "Pour Me Out" (which still sounds awesome today) to the anthemic ballad "Fight" to the tearful closer "Garden," Them was a solid pop rock effort and probably the band's most timeless of their releases. If you don't care about the year a record was released in but could use a little pop rock peace, check out PFR's Them. - John DiBiase
Our synopsis: "PFR's sensitive late 90's pop/rock record is still a delight almost fifteen years later." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Encouragement, comfort, hope Song Highlights: "Pour Me Out," "Fight," "Anything," "Say," "Garden"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Them? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
It’s very possible I’m in the minority when I say this, but when The Classic Crime released their third record Vagabonds last year, I felt the result was particularly underwhelming.It definitely wasn’t a horrific record, but I felt many of the tracks weren’t especially powerful (with a couple bordering on slightly offensive).And when compared to the Tooth & Nail signees’ second record, The Silver Cord, it just doesn’t seem to measure up.But as a result, The Silver Cord looks like an even greater musical achievement in retrospect.The quintet’s debut Albatross got the band started in the right direction, and their follow-up polished up their sound efficiently.It’s aggressive in some areas (“Gravedigging,” “5808,” “Abracadavers,” “Medisin”), but it also takes its time when most effective, making the fifteen-track album full of ambition and variety.With so many songs on one record, they’re all surprisingly very strong, but with some major highlights in consideration, “Salt In the Snow” is the real standout (and, in my opinion, perhaps one of the best rock songs of the last decade).The Silver Cord isn’t especially spiritual, but it’s nonetheless a well-constructed, thoughtful, and very memorable record from 2008 that hits all the right notes. - Roger Gelwicks
Our synopsis: "One of 2008's best records, The Classic Crime successfully link fun and proficiency together to create one strong epic rock album." (Recommended by JFH's Roger Gelwicks) Perfect For: Contemplation, Self-Reflection, Relationships Song Highlights: "Just a Man," "Gravedigging," "Salt In the Snow", "Abracadavers", "Closer Than We Think," "The Beginning (A Simple Seed)"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album The Silver Cord? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
As another year of music draws to a close this week, it seems appropriate to look back over 2010's catalog of releases to highlight some of the standout albums of the year. Producer extraordinaire Aaron Sprinkle finally released his band Fair's sophomore album, entitled Disappearing World on Tooth & Nail Records in February. Melodlic, thoughtful, and wonderfully catchy, it's a deep album that offers plenty to chew on while being one of the most accessible projects Sprinkle has lended his soft vocals to. Hopefully 2011 will have more projects as notable as this one. - John DiBiase
Our synopsis: "One of the best records to release in 2010, Fair's second effort is a triumphant, catchy indie rock record." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Relationships, Hope Song Highlights: "Disappearing World," "Walking In My Sleep," "Take Some Risks," "It's Doubtful," "Anymore"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Disappearing World? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Christmastime is here! If you're like me, you've been spinning those Christmas tunes that you grew up with and even some more modern offerings that you've added into the rotation in recent years. Well, one worth considering is an album that flew pretty low under the radar last year. Not only did it not release to all music stores, but you could only buy it digitally... or on CD from musichristian.com. Sadly, this is a record that deserves full distribution.
In addition to her incredible vocals, Ayiesha Woods has channeled some R&B, motown and just plain ole soul into her Christmas project, Christmas Like This. It's a pretty solid collection of holiday covers, and her renditions of "Rudolph..." and "Merry Christmas Baby" are especially fun. - John DiBiase
Our synopsis: "Soulful, infectious, catchy, and warm are just a few words that come to mind when listening to Ayiesha Woods' first Christmas outing. Light that fire, put this on and cozy up with a cup of cocoa!" (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Christmas spirit and holiday cheer Song Highlights: "Merry Christmas Baby," "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Christmas Like This? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
With Christmas swiftly approaching, it's time to start dusting off the seasonal tunes and get into the spirit of the Christmas season. But with each new year comes new recordings from artists hoping to become part of your annual Christmas music rotation. Last year, Seabird released a 2-song Christmas EP that offered new takes on two holiday favorites. This year, the two tracks are joined by five new ones for a new digital release titled Over the Hills and Everywhere. The EP consists of seven traditional songs that have been given Seabird's own original re-imagining, which brings a familiarity and a freshness to the songs at the same time.
Last year, when I first heard their re-arranged takes on "Silent Night" and "Joy To The World," I was actually rather disappointed. However, repeat listens helped me appreciate their creative updates and it also helped prepare me for welcoming this new EP with more receptive ears. Fans of Seabird's piano rock will love these tunes while those who are sick of hearing new versions of the same songs over and over might actually really appreciate what Seabird has done on Over the Hills and Everywhere. Check out the release now available on iTunes! - John DiBiase
Seabird Over The Hills and Everywhere - A Christmas Ep (2010)
Our synopsis: "Seabird gives seven traditional Christmas tunes new life via new arrangements on this digital EP." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Christmas spirit and holiday cheer Song Highlights: "Angels We Have Heard On High," "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing," "Joy to the World," "Silent Night"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Over The Hills and Everywhere - A Christmas Ep? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Further Seems Forever was arguably one of the most well-loved emo-ish Tooth & Nail bands in the early 2000's. Despite their constant lineup changes (most notably the fact that they had a different vocalist with each new studio album), people stuck by their side as they continued to release quality rock music. Recently, it was announced that the original vocalist Chris Carabba (who, after leaving, headed up the mainstream band Dashboard Confessional and had a fairly successful run) has teamed up with FSF once again. In anticipation for whatever they're going to do next year, I thought I'd recommend what is my favorite FSF album, Hide Nothing. Most fans prefer The Moon Is Down, and while it's definitely a good album, Hide Nothing speaks a lot more to me personally. The songs are hopeful and powerful, and Jon Bunch's vocals compliment the intricate musicianship near-perfectly... even if the entire album is less than a half hour long. If you haven't heard Hide Nothing (or any other FSF music), do yourself a favor and listen to it, and get ready for something new from the reunited group pretty soon. ~ Scott Fryberger
Our synopsis: "FSF's triumphant return and final run (or so we thought)." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Grace, being yourself, faith Song Highlights: "Light Up Ahead," "Hide Nothing," "Like Someone You Know," "Make It A Part," Call on the Life," "For All We Know"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Hide Nothing? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
As Third Day gets ready to release a new album next week (titled Move -- we recommend it as well!), it's tough not to look back over what the band has created since their 1996 debut. But in 1999, the band released a more rootsy album titled Time, leaving behind a lot of the rock elements from their first two records (their second one, Conspiracy No. 5 especially). But that's where the exclusive bonus disc Southern Tracks came in. As a bonus disc packaged with certain copies of Time, the Southern Tracks EP was more or less the rockier side of the band that wasn't quite as represented on Time. While some fans might be tempted to dismiss it as a "b-sides" release or a collection of subpar 3D songs, it couldn't be further from the truth. The four songs do stand well on their own, especially the edgier souther rockers "Long Time Comin'" and "Underwater." It's pretty tough to find this project for purchase under $20 these days, but no true "Gomer" should be without this one. - John DiBiase
Our synopsis: "A rare collection of Third Day gems that represents the band's southern rock talents quite well." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Encouragement, surrender Song Highlights: All four songs.
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Southern Tracks? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Much Afraid was actually one of the first albums I really got into. Although Jars Of Clay’s sophomore project isn’t as predominant as their classic self-titled debut, it still manages to stand on its feet. The first half of the album features great pop rock tunes like “Overjoyed,” “Fade To Grey,” and “Crazy Times.” The latter portion of the album (with the exception of a few ballads) takes on an almost indie feel which provides a lot of meat for listeners to chew on. Of the previously mentioned ballads, “Tea And Sympathy” is not just an album highlight, it acts as one of most unforgettable Jars Of Clay songs ever (well, for me at least). Dan Haseltine also provides a impressive medium of simplicity, complexity, and vulnerability in his songwritting. The album won’t blow anyone away, but those who want a quiet getaway won’t want to pass up the band’s thoughtful lyrics or soft, intriguing music. - Nathaniel Schexnayder
Our synopsis: "The band's brave sophomore project that offers thoughtful lyrics and soft, intriguing music." (Recommended by JFH's Nathaniel Schexnayder) Perfect For: Worship, relationships, reassurance Song Highlights: “Overjoyed,” “Tea and Sympathy,” and “Truce”
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Much Afraid? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
As Cities Burn had a great start on Solid State Records, but after Son, I Loved You At Your Darkest, they seemed to be done due to having no lead vocalist anymore. Thankfully, they got the position filled and they came back with Come Now Sleep. It was one of those seemingly rare instances when a band changes their sound in some way and fans don't revolt. The sound was missing the screaming from their debut, but the lyrics were still as powerful and convicting as they were, while retaining a somewhat aggressive indie sound. Come Now Sleep was not only a relief for As Cities Burn fans, but it was also a great album that met fans' expectations. ~ Scott Fryberger
Our synopsis: "Convicting indie rock from a band that almost didn't make it." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Worship, conviction, humility Song Highlights: "Empire," "The Hoard," "This Is It, This Is It," "Wrong Body," Our World Is Grey"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Come Now Sleep? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
I thought a "special edition" of JFH's "We Recommend" was in order to feature Summertime recommendations. Now, keep in mind - this is by NO means a comprehensive list of music that is perfect for your Summer music enjoyment, but this is simply some tunes we recommend for crusing to or enjoying the Summer sun with.
Each Summer, those who can drive know what it means to have some music especially suitable for blaring with the windows down. And for those who can't drive, Summer music represents that time in our lives when Summer music is a soundtrack for life. So, to honor that, here are a few titles currently available that I recommend for your Summer driving and life soundtracks...
-- Children 18:3 ... Rain's 'A Comin'... this is one of those albums that just begs to be played with the windows down during one of those sweltering Summer days or cool, starry nights. The record takes its time to rock out and even go the acoustic route, offering a full-range of Summertime-worthy sounds. Highlights? The title track, no doubt, as well as "Cover Your Eyes," "Oh Bravo," Oh Honestly!", "Stronger," and "Lost So Long."
-- Ivoryline ... Vessels .... Fans of Anberlin itching for a new release (or one a bit less commercial than New Surrender) will find what they're looking for in the hooky and catchy sounds of Ivoryline's new record. Although it doesn't drop until July 27, it's worth the wait, and will serve as a nice accompaniment to Children 18:3's latest. Highlights include "The Healing," "Search Me Out," "Instincts," "Hearts Open," "Vessels"
-- House Of Heroes ... Suburba .... It's unfortunate this one doesn't release until August 3rd because this album is pretty solid for Summertime enjoyment. At least it's still hot out when this one drops... HOH taps into Americana influences and Queen to capture a unique vibe for Suburb. And since this record thematically focuses more on the teen years, younger listeners (and the sentimental older listeners) should connect more with Suburba. Highlights include "Relentless," "So Far Away," "Elevator," "Independence Day for a Petty Thief," and "Love is for the Middle Class."
-- Newsboys ... Born Again .... Tait band and faithful Newsboys fans will especially want to grab this one on July 13. It's a solid mix of soulful pop and pop rock, with even a cover of dc Talk's "Jesus Freak" featuring KJ-52 (instead of TobyMac on the original). If the aforementioned titles are too indie rock or edgy for your tastes, you'll want to look into Born Again.Highlights include the title track, "Build Us Back," "Impossible," "Miracles," and "Escape."
-- Charmaine ... Love Reality .... I find I keep coming back to this one. If you like epic, big sounding power pop, this record is what the doctor ordered. Lovely, fun, and insanely catchy, pop fans will find this one quite Summer-worthy. And best yet, with some meaningful lyrical themes found within, this is a pop record that's ANYTHING but just fluff. Highlights? The whole thing.
-- TobyMac ... Tonight .... Like Charmaine's record, it's a bit unfortunate this one came out so early this year. The party anthems and catchy hip hop flavored pop and rock make this one perfect for the road and chill-time with friends. Highlights - "Hey Devil," "Showstopper," "Tonight"
-- Group 1 Crew ... Spacebound EP .... Dance music fans will want to check out Group 1 Crew's teaser EP from their upcoming Fall release. This is Summer music at it's poppiest. G1C may find this one a big stylistic shift from the band's previous efforts, but it's undeniably party-ready!
-- OTHER Notable Releases: The hardcore fan will surely want to check out Haste The Day's new record, Attack of the Wolf King, while another hard release worth checking out is the self-titled release from Write This Down. And if you maybe want a softer record, definitely go for the soulful pop of Jaymes Reunion's new album Everything You've Been Looking For. And don't forget... pretty much anything Family Force 5 has made (save for the Christmas album) is perfect for Summer listening.
-- "CLASSIC" SUGGESTIONS: Not worried about making sure you have the latest music for Summer listening? Not a problem. Check out the ska-rock of The O.C. Supertones, particularly their final release, Revenge Of The O.C. Supertones. or the 90's pop rock sound of Audio Adrenaline's gem, bloOm. I could really go on and on, but other reliable artists to check out -- Dakoda Motor Co. (either of their first two releases), Bleach (who actually have a new EP releasing sometime this year), Switchfoot, Jars Of Clay (their album from last year, The Long Fall Back To Earth even has a song called "Scenic Route"), NEEDTOBREATHE, Project 86, and Skillet.
The O.C. Supertones held a top spot in many Christian music fans' hearts, with their light-hearted - yet always deeply spiritual - ska music. After Five Iron Frenzy called it quits, The Supertones ended up not being too far behind. In 2008, their lead singer, Matt "Mojo" Morginsky, took some time out of his busy schedule and wrote and recorded a brand new album on his own, calling the project Mojo & the Info. It was a delight to Supertones fans, as it was essentially the same sound, just without the horns (though it would be unfair to limit it to that description). Mojo's deep, Christ-centered lyrics were still present, but he also sang a song about meeting his wife, and he got personal with a song about his first wife leaving him; a song that's sometimes hard to listen to. If you're a Supertones fan, and you somehow haven't heard of this solo project, you should probably get on it and see what you think. I'm holding onto hope for there being a follow up from Mr. Morginsky. ~ Scott Fryberger
Mojo & The Info Doctorate In Cold Rockin' It(2008)
Our synopsis: "Just what the mourning Supertones fans needed." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Satire, Conviction, Love Song Highlights: "Wreckin' Ball Sound," "Healing To These Streets," "My Greatest Sin," "Where Jesus Walks," "Lord You're My Song"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Doctorate In Cold Rockin' It? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
I sorta hesitate to recommend this album to the fine JfH readers. Reason being is because, in all honesty, it's not really all that good of an album. But Philmore's self-titled album is fun, quirky and, if nothing else, entertaining. Now "Our Finest Hour" is a good song, so it does have its moment in the sun. There are good times to be had by listening to "In My Boat," worshipful moments during "As I Lift My Hands," and a good cover of Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer." I'll also go ahead and say that "Fishy" was a fantastic representation of my life for a few years while I searched for <em>my</em> fish in the sea. So while <em>Philmore</em> may not be the most quality pop/punk album from the year 2000, it definitely held a spot in my CD player. ~ Scott Fryberger
Our synopsis: "A memorably fun and lighthearted pop/punk album." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Fun, worship, humor, love, faith Song Highlights: "Our Finest Hour," "Livin' on a Prayer," "Fishy," "Wish You Were Here," "Worth The Wait," "As I Lift My Hands"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Philmore? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
When a new band was announced that would be fronted by Underoath's old vocalist, I was on board. Maylene and the Sons of Disaster's self-titled debut didn't really catch me too well though. Then they released II. I was sold. It was raw. It was southern. It made me feel tough when I drove down the street with the windows down and the wind blowing through my once-long hair. The amped up southern rock sound mixed perfectly with Dallas Taylor's gravelly screaming and it became my definition of southern metal. Though I'm still not all that into their debut, II (and it's follow-up III) prove that Maylene is a force to reckoned with in metal. ~ Scott Fryberger
Our synopsis: "This is what southern metal should sound like." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Sunglasses, sleeveless shirts, cruising with the windows down Song Highlights: "Memories of the Grove," "Plenty Strong and Plenty Wrong," "Darkest of Kin," "Raised By The Tide," "Wylie," "The Day Hell Broke Loose At Sicard Hollow"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album II? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Over the weekend, my wife and I took a mini-road trip to Maryland to see Jars of Clay perform an acoustic set of their entire 1995 debut album from start to finish. To prepare for the road trip, I made a playlist on my iPod of selections new and old, and in the process of selecting songs, I "rediscovered" one of my other favorite albums from the same year - Hoi Polloi's under-rated effort, Happy Ever After. After leaving Reunion Records in the early 90's, the New Zealand rock band Hoi Poilloi returned to their roots on their Via release, Happy Ever After, offering an aggressive, dark, and moody album... complete with a creepy album cover. The record had its moments displaying some of the spunk found on their earlier albums, but ultimately, their third (and sadly, final) album was a quirky rocker that still sounds good fifteen years later. If you're a fan of edgy 90's rock (maybe a light grunge?) or alternative rock with a raw approach, this album is still well worth looking into.
Our synopsis: "A memorable and under-rated mid-90's rock album that offers a healthy mix of attitude and spirit." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Bold faith, Summer drives, Contemplative moods Song Highlights: "Thaw," "Smile," "Sun, Moon and Stars," "Boat," "Lucy"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Happy Ever After? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
This young group of musicians are wonderful. They write worship songs full of heart and passion, and they also craft ambient, well-written music as the plate the message is served on (isn't the meal more appetizing and appealing when the plate is clean and fresh instead of stale and worn out?) At times, the songs have a smooth, jazzy feel, like the waltz "Fortress," and other times it can be on the rockier side, like "Shine." Either way, it works very well, and the listener feels the honesty and love in the vocals while getting lost in the music. And they'll give it to you for free if you can't afford the five dollars. Pretty sweet deal, regardless. ~ Scott Fryberger
Five Iron Frenzy's DVD came out recently, and so I've been in a big FIF state of mind. I watched it and saw that the general consensus amongst the bandmembers, in regards to their personal favorite FIF album, was Five Iron Frenzy 2: Electric Boogaloo. So I listened to it the next day. No wonder it's their favorite. It's gold. I'm not in love with "The Day We Killed," but the rest is great. "Plan B" makes a satirical point about mediocrity in life while being the only true ska song on the album. "Far Far Away" and "Farsighted" are beautiful rock-with-horns tracks that speak of more spiritual matters. There's also the anti-capitalism gem "Vultures," the mournful-yet-worshipful "Car," and the nerd anthem "You Can't Handle This." Electric Boogaloo is a bit of a different side of Five Iron, but a great example of why they're one of the greatest bands ever, no matter how far under the radar they flew. ~ Scott Fryberger
Five Iron Frenzy Five Iron Frenzy 2: Electric Boogaloo(2010)
Our synopsis: "A different approach, but still a fabulous album from a well-loved band." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Satire, worship, being a geek? Song Highlights: "Far Far Away," "You Can't Handle This," "Farsighted," "Spartan," "Juggernaut," "Vultures," "Plan B," "Car"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Five Iron Frenzy 2: Electric Boogaloo? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
What does Nevertheless, Capital Lights, Delirious?, and Peter Furler all have in common? They all exited the music scene in 2009. However, while all of those losses were significant, the news that Falling Up (one of my most favorite bands) had disbanded was truly demoralizing. Their all-time best album will always be disputed because of their various style shifts over the course of their career. While Crashings appealed to more generic rock lovers, and Fangs certainly pleased fans of experimental concept albums, arguably their most balanced act was Captiva. The well-polished sound was a near perfect union of Dawn Escapes' edgy alternative music and Exit Lights' diverse, ambient sound. Although mysterious, Falling Up beautifully weaved spiritual themes into Captiva's lyrics to appeal to a larger demographic. While Crashings might have been the most accessible Falling Up album, those newly interested in looking back at the band's history should start with Captiva. - Nathaniel Schexnayder
Our synopsis: "A complex alternative rock album which highlights the pinnacle of Falling Up's career." (Recommended by JFH's Nathaniel Schexnayder) Perfect For: Hope, Mystery Song Highlights: "A Guide To Marine Life," "Captiva," "Arc To Archtilles," and "The Dark Side Of Indoor Track Meets."
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Captiva? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
I recently heard Spoken's self-titled album for the first time, and I was very impressed with it. I kinda lost interest in them after A Moment of Imperfect Clarity, and I ended up skipping over Last Chance To Breathe. But I popped in Spoken, and it blew me away. It made me think that they might make it back in my list of bands I like. It reminded me of when I liked them before, as I enjoyed listening to to Echoes of the Spirit Still Dwell, with it's loudness, rawness, and the occasional rapped lyrics. "This Path" was my first encounter with Spoken, and it's still one of my favorite Spoken songs. But there's also highlights to be found through the rest of the album as well. In fact, half of their greatest hits album that followed Echoes... were actually songs from Echoes... If you like Spoken now, and you haven't heard this one, look it up somewhere. It'll be worth your while. ~ Scott Fryberger
Our synopsis: "Looking back on one of today's top Christian hard rock bands." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Bold faith Song Highlights: "This Path," "Forevermore," "David," "A Question Alone"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Echoes of the Spirit Still Dwell? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
I stumbled upon Owl City long after many many people. In fact, I hadn't even heard the mega popular "Fireflies" until it was a free download from iTunes (thanks again, iTunes). So I'm not too familiar with his older stuff. I did get a chance to listen to some of it, and I liked it, but his first full length with giant label Universal Records far surpasses his previous material. Ocean Eyes was one of my favorite albums of 2009, which is both completely understandable and a little weird at the same time. Understandable because it's a brilliant and beautifully-constructed album. Weird because it's a little poppier than what I usually like - take "Dental Care" for instance (not to mention I'm not used to liking bands that millions of people love). But Adam Young definitely knows what he's doing when it comes to turning his thoughts, feelings and self-proclaimed insomnia into songs that turn out dreamy, magical and joyful. He even acknowledges his Savior in a couple songs (worshipfully in "Meteor Shower" and saying he's "found a new hope from above" in "Tidal Wave," which also features Relient K vocalist Matt Thiessen). Pop fans will absolutely fall in love with this, but it's also good for people looking for musical creativity and quality. ~ Scott Fryberger
Our synopsis: "Intelligent, thoughtful and quirky electropop to brighten your day." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Love, hope, sing-a-longs Song Highlights: The entire album is pure gold
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Ocean Eyes? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Superchick is one of those bands that some people can’t get enough of, while others despise them.For me, they may be more of a guilty pleasure.I still pop in their debut Karaoke Superstars occasionally, as it’s one of the first Christian CDs I really ever listened to extensively.I won’t contest that there aren’t visible flaws in their debut, but for the most part, Superchick set a new standard for Christian “chick-rock” with its release.Their sophomore record Last One Picked was a major improvement, but my favorite record by the band is probably Beauty From Pain.Whether it’s really their best record is up for debate, but I believe this is where Superchick really peaked with their sound and innovation.With the energetic “Anthem”, the held-back title track, and the encouraging “We Live”, there’s plenty of variety to be found, but we also aren’t spared the troubled relationship songs like “Bowling Ball” and “Wishes”.In hindsight, the market has upped the ante significantly since this release with other, more well-rounded, female-fronted rock acts taking the limelight (Fireflight and Flyleaf being prime examples), as well as Superchick’s disappointing follow-up album Rock What You Got that has to be accounted for, but Beauty From Pain is an undeniably fun and catchy record, and it captures the musical heights Superchick had reached.If you haven’t yet, give it a listen! - Roger Gelwicks
Our synopsis: "
The peak of this garage band’s career, it’s a guilty pleasure that keeps on giving." (Recommended by JFH's Roger Gelwicks) Perfect For:
Fun, relationships, encouragement Song Highlights: "
Anthem”, “Pure”, “Beauty From Pain”, “We Live”
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Beauty From Pain? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
I'm going old school once again this week. Some of the younger Christian music fans probably have never even heard of Bride, but in the early 90's, the band was one of your best sources for metal music. With a beautiful wail from lead vocalist Dale Thompson that could shatter the windows of a Dunkin Donuts two towns over (OK, maybe that's an exaggeration), Bride delivered some incredible live performances (stay to the very end of that video) as well as some fantastic songs. While it's a little tough to choose an album to recommend first, the band's most popular record was undoubtedly their 1992 release Snakes in the Playground, and for good reason. Metallica fans may take to their 1994 release Scarecrow Messiah, but Snakes... kind of had a little bit of everything - without a bad track in the bunch. From a couple power ballads that ought to make John Cooper smile, to some serious rockers like "Would You Die For Me" and "Dust Through A Fan," Snakes... is a solid and memorable 90's metal album. - John DiBiase (JFH President/Editor)
Our synopsis: "One of the best metal albums of the 90's that should still appease fans of the genre today, Bride's Snakes in the Playground is a modern classic." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Bold faith, Spiritual Encouragement Song Highlights: "Rattlesnake," "Would You Die For Me," "Dust Through A Fan," "I Miss The Rain," "Love Money," "Goodbye"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Snakes In the Playground? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
With only two weeks left in 2009, I was thinking it to be most appropriate to look back over the best of 2009. An album that placed high on many-a-top-ten list for 2009, Switchfoot's Hello Hurricane is a gem two and a half years in the making. Like nearly every Switchfoot record for me since their debut (with the exceptions of Nothing Is Sound, which I liked immediately, and Oh! Gravity, which I'm still not crazy about), Hello Hurricane was a record that got better with each listen. I liked it at first when I popped it in one August morning, but not nearly as much as I did ten or so listens later. After recently experiencing their Hello Hurricane Tour - in which they played the entire record from start to finish - I had an even greater love and appreciation for the project. From Jon Foreman's usual thoughtful lyrics and passionate vocals to the driving rock anthems of "Mess Of Me" and "The Sound" and on down to the worshipful moment in "Always," Hello Hurricane is quite simply a triumph in many ways. It's a highlight of 2009 and certainly a fine way to help wrap up another decade of music. - John DiBiase (JFH President/Editor)
Our synopsis: "Switchfoot returns after almost three years with one of their career best: a rock album with thoughtful and reflective moments. It's just what we've come to expect from Switchfoot... and more." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Encouragement, pensive moments, worship Song Highlights: "Needle And Haystack Life," "Hello Hurricane," "The Sound," "Red Eyes," "Free," "Mess Of Me," "Always"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Hello Hurricane? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
All year long, we had been hearing rumors (and subsequently confirmations and details) about a Family Force 5 Christmas album. Well, back in October (kinda early, but whatever), we were treated to their take on Christmas songs, as well as a couple of their own that they wrote for the album. The boys did Christmas as they do everything - however they want (such as a gangsta version of "Carol of the Bells" and giving the "Little Drummer Boy" a drum machine). But they also throw in a traditional style Christmas pop song with "It's Christmas Day," which also incorporates a family vibe by having the Olds brothers' father, Jerome Olds, provide some vocals as well. My personal favorite from this project would probably be the FF5 original, "The Baby," a dirty south quasi-hip hop song about the three wise men going to visit the baby Jesus in the manger. Family Force 5's Christmas Pageant isn't the best Christmas project I've ever heard, but it's a fun and fresh take on some Christmas jams (and "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music?), and it'll most likely go down as one of the most original or creative Christmas albums ever made. - Scott Fryberger
Family Force 5 Family Force 5's Christmas Pageant (2009)
Our synopsis: "Somewhat of a solution to our desire for a gangsta Christmas." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Christmas cheer and light-hearted fun Song Highlights: "Carol of the Bells," "Little Drummer Boy," "My Favorite Things," "Angels We Have Heard on High," "It's Christmas Day," "The Baby"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album It's Family Force 5's Christmas Pageant ? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
I have decided that mewithoutYou are musical geniuses. I understand that not everyone likes their music, and I can accept that. I can't understand or accept when people say that they aren't good. mewithoutYou is good. VERY good. It's All Crazy!... turned a lot of people off, but I can't get enough of it. This is a brilliant piece of work. Sure, it doesn't sound like Brother, Sister, but so what? The music is as experimental as it's ever been for this band, and the lyrics are no less passionate or thought-provoking (and way more spiritual). "The King Beetle on a Coconut Estate" is a gorgeous waltz-turned-orchestra-turned-rock song that explores the mystery of God and serves as one of the best songs on the album. "The Angel of Death Came To David's Room" re-enacts a possible dialogue between King David and the angel of death when he comes to take David away, "Cattail Down" is a traditional mewithoutYou-style jam that reminisces on singer Aaron Weiss' days of traveling and train-jumping, and "Fig With A Bellyache" discusses living in sexual sin (in more risque terms than some would like to hear - though it's not terrible). And everything that Weiss speaks of is wrapped up in a nice little package of breathtaking guitars, drums, mandolin, keyboards, and lots of other instruments pieced in here and there ("The Fox, the Crow and the Cookie" has some tuba and oddly-played violins or violas). It's a great album, and though it's hard to compete with Brother, Sister, It's All Crazy! definitely has its place as one of the great albums of our time. - Scott Fryberger
mewithoutYou It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's Alright(2009)
Our synopsis: "Beautiful, thought-provoking, intelligent, a masterpiece. End of story." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Insight, humility, submission Song Highlights: "Every Thought A Thought of You," "The Fox, the Crow and the Cookie," "A Stick, A Carrot and String," "Bullet To Binary, pt. II," "Timothy Hay," "The King Beetle on a Coconut Estate," "Allah, Allah, Allah"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's Alright? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
With the release of Switchfoot's Hello Hurricane this week (finally!), it's caused me to kind of reflect on what has been a great career of music for this San Diego rock band. I first heard Switchfoot in 1997 when The Legend Of Chin released, but actually didn't fully take notice of the band until that Fall when I saw the "Chem 6A" music video and then spun the full album again to really give it a chance to soak in. Since then, the trio has expanded to a quintet and for years these guys have just been making some really great tunes. It's tough to try to pick a favorite Switchfoot record, especially since nearly each one has impacted a big time period in my life, but if there were ever one that sort of defined who Switchfoot is and that kind of gave them a new identity and maturity, it'd have to be the career-making album, The Beautiful Letdown. From the opening sounds of "Meant To Live," to the closing musings of the beautiful "24," this is one solid alt rock record. If you're new to Switchfoot, this is the album to start with. And of course, check out Hello Hurricane as it streets this week. It's a wonderful "welcome back" from these San Diego surfers. ~ John DiBiase
Our synopsis: "This young rock band finds itself and makes its way to the mainstream with an unforgettable batch of songs." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Encouragement, wanting more out of life, worship Song Highlights: "Meant To Live," "On Fire," "24," "Gone," "The Beautiful Letdown".... pretty much the whole thing
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album The Beautiful Letdown? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
For me, indie rock is hit and miss; sometimes it can be pure pretentious futility, while other times it is profound and full of life. Tooth & Nail made a wise choice in signing Jonezetta, who thankfully seem to fit the latter description. While their sophomore record Cruel To Be Young was a respectable effort by the quintet, it was when they were a four-piece when their dance-rock melodies of Popularity caught my attention. I actually saw them open for Anberlin during the Cities tour in the spring of 2007, and while the absence of a keyboardist at the time was hard to miss (an instrument very prevalent on Popularity), their performance was enough to incite me to pick up their debut effort, and I was quite pleasantly surprised by the result. While lyrically there's admittedly not much on the spiritual front, it's all positive material that can differ greatly from Jonezetta's secular contemporaries. It's good, clean dance rock at its core, and sometimes it is just what I need to get me motivated. If you're willing to try something completely different in the indie rock market, Popularity is a rewarding listen.
~ Roger Gelwicks
Our synopsis: "Often overlooked, Jonezetta's debut is a great example of indie rock done right while being radically different at the same time." (Recommended by JFH's Roger Gelwicks) Perfect For: Fun listening, motivation Song Highlights: "Get Ready (Hot Machete)", "Communicate", "The Love That Carries Me", "Imagination"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Popularity? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Ah yes, grunge. The Seattle heavy rock sound made popular in the nineties by artists like Nirvana spilled over to the Christian market and Forefront Records put out Grammatrain's Lonely House in 1995. Sadly, the label would kind of force the band to water down their sound with their 1997 sophomore record, Flying, but Lonely House was an honest and pure project. Dark and brooding in many places, the highlight of the complex album is arguably the prayerful "Need" - a rock "ballad" with teeth, and a message any believer can really relate to, "I know they really think they see an image of maturity. But if I was what I should be wouldn't I be on my knees?" Fans of edgy rock music with dirty production (in a good way, thanks to this being one of Aaron Sprinkle's first projects as producer), should really track a copy of this down. You can even grab it on AmazonMP3 (or order a used copy for a buck! It's well worth it). ~ John DiBiase
Our synopsis: "Lonely House is one of the more underrated mid-90's rock releases. Grunge rarely sounded this good." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Faith, Struggles with Apathy Song Highlights: "Believe," "Execution," "Need"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Lonely House? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Musically, I'm a pretty easy guy to impress. There are multitudes of bands/artists that I enjoy listening to and there is a huge catalog of songs that I like. On the other hand, it's not easy to make that impression last long. Back in late May, both Chris Sligh and my friend Brandon posted Twitter updates about Owl City, and they caught my attention. One listen to the track "Hello Seattle" on Owl City's MySpace page and I was hooked, and that rare lasting impression had been made. For one, what I heard was unbelievably catchy. And another big plus? The lyrics are arguably the most clever of any artist out there today. They're deep, light-hearted, spiritual, and random, all at the same time. It's hard to categorize Owl City's musical sound (for those not familiar, Owl City is a solo music project with just one member, Adam Young). Some call it pop. Others prefer electronic/new age. But in all reality, it's a mash up of everything, which is what has made Adam Young's project so unique, enjoyable, and popular (Owl City's single "Fireflies is currently #2 on the overall iTunes song chart as I write this). A big upcoming winter tour with Deas Vail (who we're all quite familiar with) and synth-pop singer Lights is sure to keep Owl City's momentum going. And with production and guest vocals on multiple tracks from Relient K's Matt Thiessen as an added bonus, Ocean Eyes is really an album you shouldn't pass up.
~ Logan Leasure
Our synopsis: "One of the most profound records of the year, Ocean Eyes covers God, love, happiness, sadness, and everything else with some of the most unique sounds and lyrics imaginable. (Recommended by JfH's Logan Leasure)." (Recommended by JFH's Logan Leasure) Perfect For: Thinking, reflection, fun Song Highlights: "Fireflies," Vanilla Twilight"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Ocean Eyes? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
I think I say this each time, even on things that are unrelated to Five Iron, but Five Iron Frenzy is my favorite band. And I'm super excited about the release of their DVD this winter. I know, it's not unusual for some deranged FIF messageboard geeks to start rumors about the band and its releases, so I wouldn't be completely surprised if this was another one of those. But anyways, I'm excited. While thinking about my love for the band, I thought I would recommend their final release, the two-disc The End Is Here. Arguably the best release in their career, it's a great set, with a big ol' lyrics booklet (with some cool illustrations), as well as their final studio album (complete with an extra song than the original one sold at shows only on their Winners Never Quit Tour) and the live recording of their final sold-out concert. The live stuff is great, amazingly-but-not-overly-produced, with a fantastic selection of their songs and even a medley of some older jams. You can also find a great deal of their non-song live stuff tacked on at the end of the studio album, making it seem like not one second of their set was unaccounted for. Honestly, the only thing that could've made this release better was if there was a DVD of the show making it a 3-disc set. Maybe there will be some of it on the new DVD to come? We'll see.....hopefully. ~ Scott Fryberger
Our synopsis: "A perfect way to say goodbye to one of Christian music's most well-loved bands." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Beautiful lyricism, fun and conviction Song Highlights: I can't settle on just a few
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album The End Is Here? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
This Spring, one of CCM's staple acts, Jars Of Clay, released one of their strongest albums yet, the epicly titled The Long Fall Back To Earth. Over this past weekend, I caught the band's live performance at Disney's "Night Of Joy" festival and the foursome put on a great mix of old and new favorites. Their alternative/pop blend reaches different heights for the guys on The Long Fall... and even as we reach the Fall season, it still remains to be one of the highlight album releases of this year. As the guys get ready to embark on the Creation Festival Tour with TFK, FM Static, and Mark & Will from Audio Adrenaline (as "AA Talks"), we can't be more thrilled about the upcoming event. 15 years into their career, I cannot wait to see what the Jars boys have up their proverbial musical sleeves next! ~ John DiBiase
Our synopsis: "This 2009 highlight is a catchy but deep look at relationships - human and spiritual alike. One of Jars Of Clay's best!" (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Relationships, Love Song Highlights: "Heaven," "Don't Stop," "The Long Fall," "There Might Be A Light," "Heart"... pretty much the whole thing.
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album The Long Fall Back To Earth? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Some of you may notice that I tend to pick albums older than just a couple years ago for these recommendation blogs. I have found that some really great music seems to become almost altogether completely forgotten, which borders on criminal. But, with the wonders of the web these days, it's become easier to track down highlights of yesteryear in many forms, and Common Children's grunge-influenced alt rock release Skywire from 1996 is no exception.
When it comes to selecting a record to listen to (usually via my iTunes library), sometimes it's not until one of the tracks from a certain album appears during a regular shuffle, that I'm reminded of how great an album was and still sounds years later. I will then often turn the shuffle off and listen to the rest of the album as a whole. Skywire was one of those projects that recently got such treatment. Everytime I listen to this record, I find it to be such a great, solid album. Common Children mixed in unique song compositions, poetic and meaningful lyrics, and a diverse collection of styles on Skywire. From the heavy and frantic "Hate" (about hating our sinful nature) to the redemptive "Treasure" and all around, it's one of the highlights of the Christian alternative scene in the mid-90's. And it's releases like these that are still relatively easy to track down. For example, you can get a physical CD used from Amazon for less than a quarter, or download the mp3s for less than 10 bucks. Well worth checking out! ~ John DiBiase
Our synopsis: "A passionate grunge-influenced rock record that is sorely overlooked as an undeniably relevant release." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Struggles with sin, guilt, grace Song Highlights: "Wishing Well," "Last Time Out," "Broken Smile," "Skywire," "Dual Lens"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Skywire? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
I loved Five Iron Frenzy. I still do. I always will. When they broke up, I was sad. I remember talking to Reese at their last show in Kansas City, and he said he was working on Guerilla Rodeo, and there was hope. When all they ended up doing was three songs, and breaking my heart, it was a breath of relief to know that 5 Minute Walk Records was putting out the debut for Reese's new group, Roper. Brace Yourself For The Mediocre pretty much picked up where Five Iron left off. Though it obviously didn't have any of the ska-ness to it, it was similar to Five Iron otherwise. Reese's impeccable lyrical talents were ever-present, and he found for himself a great set of musicians to back him up. In true Roper style, the lyrics were funny (the old person's rock anthem "Vendetta!") and satirical (the anti-bad boyfriend song "You're With Stupid"), and sometimes even made pop culture references (the Back To The Future-theme "1985" and the G.I. Joe adventure of "Red Eye To Miami"). And of course, the serious times reflecting on God ("How Your Halo Fell" and "In Excelsis Deo"). There's even a cover song (a guilty pleasure of mine) of Shania Twain's "You're Still The One." My understanding was that each new Roper album was to have another cover of a country song on it, but sadly, Roper broke up after this one album. And from talking to Reese in an interview last year, there's pretty much no chance of a reunion. But there's still this one album from Roper that us fans can hold on to when we cry about missing our beloved FIF. ~ Scott Fryberger
Our synopsis: "Some fun and intelligent pop/punk from the mega-talented Reese Roper and friends." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberge) Perfect For: Fun, pop culture, satire Song Highlights: "You're With Stupid," "Vendetta," "Red Eye To Miami," "1985," "Day of Pigs," "You're Still The One," "In Excelsis Deo"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Brace Yourself For The Mediocre? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
This is where a lot of Showbread fans realized that they weren't true Showbread fans. So many times, when an artist or band changes their style/genre, fans jump off the bandwagon. As sad as it is, it happens. And with a band like Showbread, a group of musicians who don't want to stay in the same place with their music from album to album, this happens a lot. But Showbread's sophomore Tooth & Nail album, Age of Reptiles, was a great album. Admittedly, No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical does top it, but Age of Reptiles isn't really that much of a departure from Nihilism. Sure, there's less screaming (or toned down to only a tiny part of one song), and there's a little more structure (even in the progression of the tracks), but it's still got well-written music and thoughtful and captivating lyrics. It's more accessible (meaning it's able to reach a wider audience than before) but still maintains the raw rock sound, and you can jam out to it loud and proud in the car. (And FYI, when I first got my CD player in my car, this was the first album I popped in as I left the Best Buy parking lot with a smile on my face). - Scott Fryberger
Our synopsis: "A more structured outing of the fantastic raw rock sound not found with any other band." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Satire, love, worship, humility Song Highlights: "Naked Lunch," "Pachycephalosaurus," "Oh! Emetophobia," "Sing Me To Sleep," "Centipede Sisters," "Age of Reptiles"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Age Of Reptiles? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Is it really possible that none of us have recommended this record yet? Sheesh! Well, maybe it's a given by the name of this site that this record is a hearty recommendation from us, but as we celebrate our thirteenth year online this month, it seems only fitting to dig this one out and put our little stamp of approval on it. Over the weekend, I got the bizarre but awesome chance of venturing into the Twilight Zone to experience Michael Tait's fronting of the Newsboys. It was a quirky trip down memory lane as the band ended up performing three tracks from this very dc Talk record! Jesus Freak helped pave the way for much of the mainstream's acceptance of "Christian rock" music and has opened so many doors for the genre in the Christian circuits. Crisp production and memorable life anthems make this a record that should be part of every music fan's collection. And it's undeniable that the pairing of Tait, TobyMac, and K-Max wasn't anything short of incredible and inspired. While it looks like we're drifting further and further from ever seeing that band reunite for the greater good, we at least have this 1995 album to cherish in our hearts and souls. ~ John DiBiase
Our synopsis: "Ah, yes. The record that inspired this very website. Solid album from start to finish. It changed the music industry and lives as well." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Bold Faith, Worship, Encouragement Song Highlights: "Jesus Freak," "Colored People," "What If I Stumble," "Like It Love It Need It," "In The Light"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Jesus Freak? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
My best friend at the time, Ethan WIllis introduced me to the sounds of Holland. Unfortunately, I didn't really get into it until they had disbanded and The Lonely Hearts had formed. Still, there is a lovely sense of nostalgia that overcomes me every time I spin this disc. Those Holland boys have something special. - Josh Taylor
Our synopsis: "Holland's first and only album before becoming The Lonely Hearts is a catchy, upbeat rocker that showcases some of the best that Tooth & Nail had to offer." (Recommended by JFH's Josh Taylor) Perfect For: The Lonely Hearts fans, Rolling the car windows down, Spiritual renewal Song Highlights: ""Shine Like Stars," "I'm Not Backing Down," "Goodbye Texas"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Photographs and Tidalwaves? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Britt Nicole’s debut album, Say It, released in May 2007, was a breath of fresh air for any pop music lover. Christian pop has never really been able to compete with current mainstream artists. However, Britt and her producers did an amazing job putting together music that is both fresh and current. The Christian lyrics are indeed a plus, dealing with topics like being “on fire” for Jesus (“Set The World on Fire”), having a positive outlook on life (“Holiday,” “Good Day”), and even dealing with divorce and self-worth (“Don’t Worry Now,” “When She Cries”). This album stays relevant, especially to teenagers, and there is truly not a bad song on the entire disc. Here’s hoping her sophomore effort, The Lost Get Found, can measure up to its incredible predecessor. - Matthew Watson
Our synopsis: "Fun pop perfection, able to stand up to any mainstream counterpart, without forsaking Christian messages." (Recommended by JFH's Matthew Watson) Perfect For: Relationships; Faith; Pick-me-ups; Summer! Song Highlights: "Holiday," "Set the World on Fire," "Good Day," "Ready," "When She Cries," "Say It"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Say It? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Singer-songwriter Bebo Norman made his national debut to Christian music with Ten Thousand Days, the follow up to his indie release The Fabric of Verse. A decade later, it continues to be a classic worth revisiting. Though I remembered the radio singles “Stand,” “The Hammer Holds,” and “I’m Alright,” it wasn’t until a year or two ago that I picked this up on a friend’s recommendation and discovered just what a great album it was.
Bebo’s signature style is acoustic folk with lyrics that find a quiet center between hope and brokenness, and his first CD is filled with peaceful, introspective gems. “I’m Alright,” one of the more upbeat and better-known songs, simultaneously acknowledges the “demons in my history” and declares with hope that “I will get by.” “Where the Angels Sleep” is probably my all-time favorite Bebo Norman song. The music is focused on acoustic guitar with a delicate female harmony and just enough strings and percussion to give it a majestic swell where it needs it, and lyrically, it’s a masterpiece of honest, real poetry. The closer, “Rita,” is one of the most powerful musical responses to death I’ve ever heard. As he rails against trite responses to grief (“It was not her time / That’s a useless line”), he also acknowledges God’s sovereignty and power to heal broken hearts (“But the God that sometimes can’t be found / Will wrap Himself around you”).
Ten Thousand Days lives in the contrasts, the place between hope and despair, the ruined and the beautiful. Whether revisiting the beginnings of Bebo Norman’s career or finding his music for the first time, track down a copy and discover this classic for yourself. - Jen Rose
Our synopsis: "A blend of acoustic folk and poetic depth are the highlights of this classic singer-songwriter debut
." (Recommended by JFH's Jen Rose) Perfect For: Hope, reflection, quiet rainy days
Song Highlights: “Stand,” “The Hammer Holds,” “I’m Alright,” “Where the Angels Sleep,” “Rita”
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Ten Thousand Days? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
I actually took a chance on this CD when I bought it. I saw it sitting on the new release rack, and had no idea who it was. I had never even heard this dude's name. But I looked at the tracklist and I saw guest appearances from Pigeon John, Playdough and RedCloud. I said "Well, it must not be bad if it has guests like that." So I bought it, went out to my car and popped it in the stereo. What did I get? Gold. There's a mixture of acoustic, singy-type songs and an array of fantastic flows. And Heath McNease did both very well. His singing voice is soothing, and his rapping is skilled. What strikes me as odd is that on this very website, this album was only given 3 stars. I mean, we all have our different tastes in music and different ideas about different artists. But I still wondered why it was given so low of a rating. It's definitely a good addition to your collection if you like hip hop. If you don't have it, consider it officially recommended by JfH, and you can also sit back and wait for his newest album to come out (hopefully sometime very soon). - Scott Fryberger
Heath McNease The Heath McNease Fan Club Meets Tonight(2007)
Our synopsis: "A debut album that displayed incredible talent from a young rapper and musician
." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Humor, love, humility
Song Highlights: " Where I'm Not Wanted," "Rumors," "Love Me," "Call Me Mister," "So So," "Nintendo Thumb
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album The Heath McNease Fan Club Meets Tonight? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
By any measure, I'm definitely not a huge listener nor fan of the "hard rock" genre. And while Flyleaf certainly fits into this category, their self-titled debut, which released nearly four long years ago, is possibly my favorite Christian record of all time. Something about the entire disc just completely draws me in. "I'm So Sick" was the first cut I heard off the album, and while it isn't one of the CD's finer tracks, it was enough to catch my attention, and that attention has remained to this day. Maybe it's the lyrics. Each and every song contained here pushes through meanings deeper than any band that I've heard, and something about each track seems to make a connection. And where do I even begin talking about lead singer Lacey Mosley's voice? It's entirely unique, and it fits in perfectly with every song, from the hard rock "Fully Alive" to the more timid "There for You." With their new record, Memento Mori (which I absolutely can not wait to hear!), releasing in August, there couldn't be a more perfect time to delve into Flyleaf's debut to see what you've been missing. You won't be let down. - Logan Leasure
Our synopsis: "
An album that will go down in Christian music history as one of its greatest." (Recommended by JFH's Logan Leasure) Perfect For: Redemption, Faith, Mercy Song Highlights: "All Around Me," "Sorrow," "There for You," "So I Thought"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Flyleaf? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Tonight, I sat down at my desk and got the sudden impulse to listen to one particular record. As I sat here wondering what the latest recommendation from us should be, it quickly became obvious.
The funny thing about Dakoda Motor Co. and their 1993 Myrrh/Word debut Into The Son, is that when I first saw the music video for "Grey Clouds," as a teenager, I hated it! It's funny to think that, before long, not only did their sound - and that song - grow on me, but they remain, to this day, one of my favorite listens. Into The Son is a raw surf rock record (classic "Jesus music" as some might say) when the California band was at its peak. Davia Vallesillo's vocals (and Chuck King's frenetic and varied drumming) are really what stand out on this record. While the band's message got more diluted over the years as guitarist Peter King suited up as an MTV video jock, DMC was never the same, but this debut still sounds great 16 years later (although the sophomore album, Welcome Race Fans has a few genuine gems). With the original lineup currently reunited and performing a few spot dates here and there, the hope for new tunes from this band begins to rise again... - John DiBiase
Our synopsis: "Surf splashed pop/punk with passion and heart. I'll never tire of this album." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Love, Loneliness, Faith, Fun Song Highlights: "Wind An' Sea," "Freedom," "Ocean Seems," "Need A Love," "Son Dancer."
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Into The Son? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
While I’m starting to really tire of the whole "EP" thing right now, Danyew EP really stuck out to me. (Phil) Danyew, a multi-instrumentalist, put together a seemingly flawless collection of six songs, all special in their own way. It’s a unique keyboard-driven worshipful experience; with the epic “The Closer We Are,” the acoustic-based “Beautiful King,” and the folk-infused “Nothing Without You,” there’s something different for each track. It’s a solid project through and through, and though it’s brief, it’s a good sampler of what Danyew has to offer. My only complaint is that I really wish it was a full-length album (but hey, if that’s the only downside, that can be a good thing!). Maybe it will get expanded sometime in the future, but for now, it’s one of the pleasant surprises as well as among the best of 2009. - Roger Gelwicks
Our synopsis: "One of the best debuts this year that brings us a unique alt-rock/electronica sound that should captivate every listener." (Recommended by JFH's Roger Gelwicks) Perfect For: Unique worship, awe of Christ Song Highlights: There are only six tracks, and they all qualify here!
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Danyew EP? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
California worship leader Phil Wickham is a fairly new artist who's written a respectful collection of worship songs since his self-titled debut in 2006. I've noticed that his style, however, isn't for everyone. His vocals are undoubtedly unique and are expressed in a rather child-like fashion that is innocent and verbally poetic, especially in a generation where the Church is, in many cases, being fed with watered-down worship music; something generic that is stamped as radio-friendly. In my opinion, Phil Wickham's Cannons album stands out because it is creative and interesting melodically and captures lyrics that are true and honest. Do yourself a favor and spend some time on this album. It's sure to shed a great deal of light and hope to any open listener and willing worshipper. - Ben Cardenas
Our synopsis: "Phil Wickham's newest album Cannons stands out with brilliant innocence in a generation of watered-down ideas of worship, taking creative risks that you probably won't find in many of today's popular worship music." (Recommended by JFH's Ben Cardenas) Perfect For: Fresh Worship Song Highlights: "Must I Wait," "The Light Will Come," "You're Beautiful," "True Love," "Home," and "Spirit Fall."
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Cannons? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
I was actually introduced to Children 18:3 right here on this site and, upon reading David Goodman's honest and accurate review, I ventured into purchasing the album that same day. I don't mean to sound like a die-hard fan here, but this album carries with it what you might find to be the most memorable collection of sounds you've heard in a long time. The album hurries through each track with intensity and fall-off-the-bone goodness, keeping you wedged somewhere in-between feeling like you're finally a part of something bigger than yourself and wanting to make some kind of epic, significant change in your world. All I plead is that you keep an open heart and mind for this record, as it is a wild ride and a real poetic experience. - Ben Cardenas
Our synopsis: "A solid bundle of sound and easily one of the strongest and most memorable punk rock releases of 2008." (Recommended by JFH's Ben Cardenas) Perfect For: Awakening, Reflection, Venting Song Highlights: "All My Balloons", "LCM", "You Know We're All So Fond Of Dying", "Even Sleeping", and "Homemade Valentine"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Children 18:3? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Several years ago, I was all about watching TVU. My church had it playing in its game room, and whenever I went in there, I sat and watched video after video. In 2004, a new band had one of its videos playing, and from the opening screams of "Walls," I knew Emery was something special. Since then, they have consistenly put out amazing music, and are set to release another great album next month. But in this guy's humble opinion, it may be very hard to top their debut, The Weak's End. Mind-boggling as it is to me, it got the lowest rating on JFH out of all their releases, but it's my personal favorite of the discography. Songs like "The Ponytail Parade" and "As Your Voice Fades" are some of the finest emocore you can find. The Question and I'm Only A Man are definitely really good albums, but if you enjoy screaming amidst some passionate emo music, buy The Weak's End. It's a must-have. - Scott Fryberger
Our synopsis: "The debut album from one of the most passionate and skilled emocore artists in the entire market today." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Troubled relationships, emotions Song Highlights: "Walls," "The Ponytail Parade," "Disguising Mistakes With Goodbyes," "Fractions," "As Your Voice Fades"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album The Weak's End? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
I can’t think of too many others that are so personal to me as Cities. I had heard of Anberlin before it came out, but I didn't know much about them. However, something urged me to take a chance and pick up the record anyway. As one of my all-time favorite albums, there’s always a track that I can relate to, no matter my circumstances when listening to it. Loving the record so much, I went to see Anberlin live that spring, my first show in years. The record and the show both changed my appreciation and outlook on music altogether. While I can readily admit that it’s not exactly a worshipful record, God’s presence in it is very evident, and it looks at life with a very realistic lens. It’s a solid alternative rock record with a song for every situation. - Roger Gelwicks
Our synopsis: "2007’s best record, and the alternative rock album that solidified Anberlin’s status as a force to be reckoned with in the Christian, as well as mainstream, market." (Recommended by JFH's Roger Gelwicks) Perfect For: Relationships, reflections on life Song Highlights: "Godspeed," "Adelaide," “A Whisper & A Clamor,” “The Unwinding Cable Car,” “Inevitable,” “Dismantle.Repair"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Cities? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Last Summer I had the pleasure of catching Seabird live at Vertical Fest in Shippensburg, PA. I was impressed by the raw passion and the talent this foursome displayed. This one live performance awakened an appreciation in me for this young and promising act. Currently on tour with Jars Of Clay, Seabird recently headlined JFH's second GMA showcase, at 12th & Porter in Nashville, TN (video and review) and left a lasting impression once again. I've since been stuck on this record and can't get enough of it. Fans of Cold Play will probably dig these guys most (although I am not a fan of CP and I do enjoy this record), but anyone looking for a good piano rock record with beautiful piano pieces and intriguing lyrics will most likely find a lot to like about 'Til We See The Shore. - John DiBiase
Our synopsis: "A solid piano rock record that may get lost in a game of mainstream sound-a-likes, but is well worth discovering and experiencing live." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Pensive moments, chilling out or singing along Song Highlights: "Rescue," "Apparitions," "'Til We See The Shore," "Not Alone"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Til We See The Shore? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
This is one of the finest recordings known from the 90s. Ian Eskelin, the vocalist and also a solo artist, has contributed so much to the alternative genre in the last 15 years, and this album a perfect example of an experience that’s unforgettable. There are so many songs that shine on this album such as: “Angels”, “La La Land”, “Smash Hit”, and “Tenderness”. - Wayne Myatt
I actually think it's funny Wayne picked this album for this week. Listening to ASU's new album The Good Album a lot lately (which comes out in the UK this week and in the US sometime this year), it's put me in a bit of an All Star United mood, so I've been spinning their 1997 debut quite a bit. I love this album. From the band's ability to be tongue-in-cheek and sarcastic about issues in the church and packaging it in such a catchy pop song, to the fact he can also shoot straight to the heart in the slower songs like "Drive," "Torn," and "Tenderness." Still a fantastic record 12 years later! Check out the lyrics to the opening track, "La La Land." They make for a great read as well. - John DiBiase
Our synopsis: "A fun pop/rock record from a band that knows how to be witty just as well as it knows when to be serious." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase and Wayne Myatt) Perfect For: Forgiveness, Humbleness, and Faith. Song Highlights: "Angels”, “La La Land”, “Smash Hit”, and “Tenderness”
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album All Star United? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
I was introduced to this poet named Bradley Hathaway in late 2004. He had a couple of his recorded poems on his Purevolume site, and I really dug them, especially one entitled "The Hug Poem." I liked his stuff, but didn't think much of it till mid-2006, when I got an opportunity to see him in a live setting at a music festival I attended. I bought his book, All The Hits So Far, But Don't Expect Too Much, and watched as he sat on the edge of the stage and told us all to gather 'round and get real close and cozy. He recited some of his poems, and even played some folksy, acoustic songs. Since then, he's grown so much as an artist, and has jumped from completely poetry to singer/songwriter status. He recently released his newest piece, A Mouth Full of Dust. It's a short one, with only ten songs, but man are they good. I'll be honest and say that you may (or for some people WILL) have a hard time coming to grips with his singing voice. But for those who can get past it (or enjoy it, such as myself), you'll find some amazing lyricism, and amazingly orchestrated music. Many of the songs were recorded with Hathaway by himself in the recording booth with the lights off and just a couple candles lit as he played the guitar and poured out his soul through his lyrics. The songs deal with love, despair, grace and our sinful natures. They also range from folky and upbeat ("Lord Have Mercy") right on down to slow and beautiful ("Mary"). There's even a hint of mewithoutYou in "Samuel." It's truly a work of art.
Our synopsis: "A look into the soul of a poet-turned-singer, with very well-written lyrics and music." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Faith, hope and love Song Highlights: "Can't Get With This," "Look Up," "Mary," "I Don't Believe In Love," "Lord Have Mercy"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album A Mouth Full of Dust? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
In the search for intimate but fresh worship music, it wouldn't hurt to reach back a handful of years to 2001 when former 5 Minute Walk Records (anyone remember them?) singer/songwriter Justin McRoberts released his first worship project, Untitled EP. The stripped-down acoustic venture had only been recorded in a few days and showcased the singer's wonderful and passionate vocals in a very personal, very vulnerable way that made worshipping in a quiet setting easy and intimate. The album title is beautifully simplistic -- allowing the listener to use the songs as a tool for worship in a way becomes their own. McRoberts raised the bar with the Untitled EP... and I'd love to hear him try his hand at another release like this.
Our synopsis: "Stripped down, intimate acoustic worship for those necessary quiet times alone with God." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Quiet Times, Worship Song Highlights: "Learning To Need You," "Making Noises," "I Will Come"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Untitled EP? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
In my review of Chris Sligh’s record last April, I wrote that I wouldn’t be surprised if he garnered a nomination or two at this year’s Dove Awards. Well, now he’s nominated in perhaps the most sought after category for rising Christian music stars, New Artist of the Year! He may as well be the most deserving nominee in the category this year as well. Running Back to You was an incredibly impressive and surprising debut record – something that I personally wasn’t expecting. Sligh takes worship and makes it exceptionally relevant and unique, unlike artists such as Chris Tomlin and Casting Crowns, who haven’t given us anything exciting or fresh for years now (though the Gospel Music Association loves them more than anything; go figure). Chris Sligh’s passion for Christ and love for making career defining music are clearly evident on this record, and because of this, it’s definitely worth your time to give it a listen. ~ Logan Leasure
Our synopsis: "
A sizeable debut that gives Chris Sligh extremely solid footing in the Christian music industry." (Recommended by JFH's Logan Leasure) Perfect For:
Understanding God’s love, Worship Song Highlights: "Loaded Gun," "Vessel"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Running Back to You? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Ah yes, solo ventures. Few seem to really be able to spark the same kind of impact that the brave band member's original venture can. The same is not so, however, for Switchfoot's Jon Foreman. His first solo project, the 6-song EP "Fall" is undoubtedly my favorite of his four EP's (perhaps also because it's my favorite season?), but Foreman has created a wonderful 12-song set by the pairing of the Fall and Winter EP's together into one set. Released to retail together originally last year, EMI has unfortunately decided to discontinue the set at retail (along with the Spring and Summer set) and have stores now only carry the 12-song compilation from all the four EPs, "Limbs and Branches." But still, the best way to experience these EPs are individually (which you can still get digitally online). "Winter" offers the phenomenal prayerful ballad "White As Snow." Foreman's weary and emotional vocal style injects a lot of passion into his acoustic folk songs, which cover an array of topics from relationships and self-inspection to all-out worship. So while "Fall" may be my favorite EP, to experience it along with "Winter" is a recommended approach.
Our synopsis: "Fantastic emotional and passionate acoustic folk musings featuring a mix of introspection, observation, and worship." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Quiet Times, Reflection, Worship, Faith Song Highlights: "The Cure For Pain," "Lord, Save Me from Myself," "Southbound Train," "White As Snow"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Fall? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
It's a little weird to be writing this one, but since seeing the band in our hometown on March 1st - just over a week ago - on the Join The Tribe Tour, I've been on a bit of a Newsboys kick, listening to all of the records from Not Ashamed through to Thrive and so on. Then, this past weekend, the rumors (as well as the confirmation) dropped that dc Talk's Michael Tait is replacing Peter Furler (in live shows at least)... so it's just been a surreal couple of days. But, alas, no matter what's going on, the fact remains they have a wealth of music past and present that still makes for fantastic listens. Their 1994 album Going Public was a real gem. Not only was it the debut of their smash hit "Shine" (whether you love it or hate it), it's home to some extraordinary ballads like "Let It Rain," "When You Called My Name," "Be Still," and "Elle G," while also offering fun ones like "Truth & Consequences," "Lights Out," and "Spirit Thing." It's a great record that should not be forgotten. Check it out if you need a little melodic pop with heart and soul in it -- and don't mind a mid-90's production sound.
Our synopsis: "A solid melodic pop record that balances the fun and the serious quite nicely. Still a gem." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Encouragement, Fun, Worship, Faith Song Highlights: "Let It Rain," "When You Called My Name," "Spirit Thing," and of course, "Shine"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Going Public? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Don’t laugh when you hear this story – I was listening in to a live webcast the Jonas Brothers did two weeks ago where fans had the chance to ask the band questions. One of the questions the guys chose to answer was “What is your favorite Christian band?” Their response: “Leeland! We love Leeland. Buy their records everyone.” They completely raved about them. Well, I’d heard of Leeland of course, and heard a few of their tracks (although none of them in their entirety) used in ad promotions and on the radio, but I’d never really delved into their music. With a lot of time on my hands, I clicked over to their MySpace and was intrigued after listening to the track “Opposite Way.” ["Amazing song!!" - John D.] I sat there for a minute after listening to it twice, taking in the powerful message and songwriting, and wondering why I hadn’t discovered their talent before. Within an hour I had listened to the whole record (thanks, YouTube), and was blown away. These guys have to be one of the most genuine bands to ever hit the industry – I’m not exaggerating either. Opposite Way is the biggest set of life-altering songs I’ve heard in quite some time, and if you haven’t discovered them yet, well, you should probably put it right at the top of your to-do list. It’s not worth it to wait any longer. ~ Logan Leasure
Our synopsis: "A fantastic album from the first band to come up in a long time that actually seems to know who they are and what they’re about." (Recommended by JFH's Logan Leasure) Perfect For: Perseverance, Worship, Spiritual healing Song Highlights: "Opposite Way,” “Count Me In,” “May Our Praise"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Opposite Way? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
It was just recently announced here on JfH that Staple is getting back together. This was exciting news to me. And due to that news, I thought it appropriate to recommend their final album before the break up, Of Truth and Reconciliation. Lots of straight up rock bands are boring nowadays. Just bland and formulaic. Staple uses rock music and mixes in bits and pieces of hard rock and even a dash of hardcore here and there and makes it beautiful. They know how to make good, heavy songs like "Circles We Run" and "Final Night," while also being able to be intricate and insightful, as in "Black, Blue and Gold" and "The Best of Times." And they always had something to say. "Gavels From Gun Barrels" speaks of our need for mercy, and "Do or Die" proclaims non-conformity to the world and sticking to faith in Jesus. Of Truth and Reconciliation is a great album for someone looking for good rock music without having to suffer the blah offerings of bands like Red and Kutless. ~ Scott
Our synopsis: "A great hard rock album that is spiritually relevant and will keep your ears' attention." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Non-conformity and spiritual strength Song Highlights: "Do or Die," "Honor and Integrity," "Gavels From Gun Barrels," "Black, Blue and Gold," "The Best of Times," "Final Night"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Of Truth and Reconciliation? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Late last week, while my iTunes library was on shuffle, a selection from Audio Adrenaline's catalog came on, and it caused me to stop the random play and just listen to one Audio A album after another. When I got to the pop/rock band's more mature 2001 effort, LIFT, I was reminded not only of why this band is one of my top favorites, but of what worship music seems to have strayed from. Even back in 2001, LIFT was a refreshing worship experience. The record isn't specifically a "worship album" by definition, and there are some weaker moments (the hit "Beautiful" may actually be my least favorite track on the record), but the album contains my favorite worship song -- and what may be my favorite song of all-time -- "Tremble." The heart of worship and reference is here on LIFT with a wonderful pop/rock/alternative mixture that separates the album from other "worship" projects and offers worship anthems that aren't mundane, hopelessly repetitive, or commonplace. In addition to "Tremble," there are a couple other mellow, reverent tracks like "This Is Everything" and "Speak To Me," while the beautiful "Glory" gives us a glimpse at what worshipping our Father some day in Heaven might be like. I just love the heart on this record. I wish there were more worship albums that sounded and felt like this one.
Our synopsis: "A wonderful pop/rock album that pushes the boundaries of what defines modern worship." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Broken hearts, Spiritual Droughts, Worship Song Highlights: "Tremble," "Glory," "Speak To Me," "Lift," "This is Everything," "You Still Amaze Me"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album LIFT? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
I hated this CD the first time I heard it. I became a Christian in late 2000, and for Christmas that year, a family in my church that knew of my recent conversion got me a Christian music sampler called Simply Impossible, containing bands like Philmore, The Normals, The Elms and Five Iron Frenzy's song "Solidarity". An odd choice from the album, because being new to Christian music, I initially thought FIF might have been a salsa band. A friend of mine let me borrow All The Hype..., and I learned they were ska. I loved ska, but I hated that CD for some reason. After some time (and a few more listens to it on a road trip one night), I discoverd the brilliance of Five Iron Frenzy. Almost every song on All The Hype... is a gem. From the worshipful skacore jam "World Without End" to the anti-hatred anthem "Fahrenheit," there's not much to not like here. The band may have passed on, but the music is still golden. If you haven't checked this one out, it's not too late. Just look on eBay or Amazon. Even iTunes has it now. And while you're there, it wouldn't hurt to buy all their other albums too, you know. - Scott F.
Five Iron Frenzy All the Hype That Money Can Buy(2000)
Our synopsis: "A disc full of fun songs, mixed with songs of faith and love as well, all set to a genre that died before it should have." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Godly love, humor and mullets Song Highlights: "The Greatest Story Ever Told," "The Phantom Mullet," "Ugly Day," "Fahrenheit," "Giants," "All The Hype," "World Without End"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album All the Hype That Money Can Buy? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Let's face it: if you're familiar with JesusfreakHideout, you may know that most of us are not huge fans of the modern praise & worship scene. It's not anything to do with the fact that it's praise & worship, cause we all sing those very songs from our hearts at church and in our devotional times. It's simply from a musical perspective. And musically, groups like Hillsong and Michael Gungor Band are just bland and run-of-the-mill. Then, in 2007, Tooth & Nail treated us to a new signing, the label's first praise & worship band, The Glorious Unseen. Tonight The Stars Speak is refreshing. The production value helps so much, especially to bring somewhat of a raw feeling to it, not the overproduced and way-too-polished sounds that are all too common in the AC world anymore. Vocalist Ben Crist has some vocals that are a little hard to handle, but they also add so much to the ambience and rawness of it. This a great album for anyone who wants something new in their praise & worship album repertoir. Go ahead, give it a listen and see what you think. - Scott
Our synopsis: "A fantastic praise & worship album for those seeking honest and heartfelt worship, without having to suffer the bland offerings of most worship groups nowadays." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Praise & worship Song Highlights: "Hear Our Prayers," "Forever Holy," "Meet Us Here," "Tonight The Stars Speak," "Wrapped Up In You," "Where Your Glory Dwells"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Tonight The Stars Speak? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
This week's recommendation is inspired by the fact I just saw this artist lead a worship service once again only a couple hours prior to writing this. It's no secret that finding refreshing worship music is a difficult task and Sarah Kelly grabbed our attention with a firm (but loving) grip with her 2004 debut Take Me Away. However, her sophomore album briefly deviated from the worshipful direction that that album established as she began to tell the heartbreaking story of her struggles with having been physically abused. The sophomore album, Where The Past Meets Today, is a very personal journey and a vulnerable and honest glimpse into this lovely worshipper's heart. Considering what Kelly has been through, Where The Past Meets Today is umistakably a pretty dark album, but the singer/songwriter mixes classic rock tunes with soft, piano laments to create a unique musical experience. In the midst of the dark times, Sarah sings with hope for brighter days and an end to this season of her life. With her 2008 album Born To Worship, Kelly returned to her roots with an upbeat album that completes a three-album story of darkness and redemption as the album represents her deliverance through God's grace. Where The Past Meets Today is still a wonderful listen and a great album for anyone going through a hard time in their life.
Our synopsis: "Brutally honest classic rock record that bares the soul of Christian music's truest sweetheart. Kelly is a light in the darkness." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Brokenness, Depression, Hope. Song Highlights: "At About Midnight," "Out Of Reach," "Remember Me Well," "Hold On Love"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Where The Past Meets Today? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Lucerin Blue was somewhat overlooked back when they released Tales of the Knife. It's a very solid rock album, and it did go over fairly well, but a lot of Christian rock fans I know haven't really heard of the band. After this release, they recorded a few more demos poised for a follow-up release, but broke up soon thereafter. But if you can find a copy of Tales of the Knife anywhere, you would do well to buy it and jam out to it. The passionate vocals tend to bring about comparisons to the Deftones and maybe even a more watered-down Project 86, and the instruments are very tightly played. There's not much when it comes to bold faith in the lyrics (save for the "I realize I can't live less the love of God" in "Superstar"), but he sings with conviction for whatever he sings about. Again, if you find this album somewhere to buy, pick it up. Fans of solid, sonic rock songs will definitely enjoy this. - Scott
Our synopsis: "A solid rock album, through and through. Not perfect, but still a very good listen, and one you can keep on repeat." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger) Perfect For: Relationships, avoiding a stagnant life Song Highlights: "Game," "Monday In Vegas," "Chorus of the Birds," "Superstar," "This Letter"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Tales Of The Knife? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
NEEDTOBREATHE won me over when I happened to see them open for Jars Of Clay in early 2007. I had given their debut, Daylight a listen before it dropped and wasn't too impressed. However, their live show -- and their return to their southern roots on The Heat -- is what caught my attention. Bear Rinehart's soulful vocals are at home on The Heat, never sounding better. With them in the studio right now working on a follow-up, it's had me hoping it will match the quality of this release. And while they do sing about relationships a lot -- lost loves, etc -- they do strike more spiritual chords on this album, from the worshipful "Signature Of Divine," to the memorable tribute to the Rinehart brothers' preacher father in "Washed By The Water," or "Streets Of Gold," which addresses the hope of seeing a loved one again some day in Heaven. Still a record I spin regularly.
Our synopsis: "Soulful alt pop with more of a focus on the spiritual this time around. One of the best of 2007." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Worship ("Signature Of Divine"), Love & Relationships Song Highlights: "Signature Of Divine," "Washed By The Water," "We Could Run Away," "Second Chances," "The Heat," "Again"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album The Heat? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Happy New Year! As we get set for another year in music (which is looking pretty promising if you ask us!), let's keep glancing back at some standout records of 2008. Another favorite this year was Family Force 5's Dance Or Die -- an album that took the crunk rockers into the dance music scene. If you've ever seen these guys live, you know they're an amazing live band who can entertain like few others. Sure they may seem silly to those who take their music just a bit too seriously, but these guys know what it takes to put on a good show, and they do it with ease. Dance Or Die is a new era for the five and maybe a bit hard of a pill to swallow for those who were attached to their first record. Dance Or Die even introduces a couple of ballads into the mix -- a daring and brave move on the band's part. While it works for them, it does disrupt the album's energy flow, but the tracks have proven to be some of the fans' favorites. And while there isn't an in-your-face spiritual message, the band does take us to higher altitudes via "Radiator" and "D-I-E 4 Y-O-U." There's something about this band's albums that make them extremely replayable for me. Dance Or Die is one I keep spinning long after a fleeting favorite is removed from my car stereo's rotation.
Anyone else have this one? Let us know if you recommend it and what your thoughts are on it!
Our synopsis: "Fun and funky with an emphasis on dancing to save the human race (?!), Family Force 5's Dance Or Die is no sophomore slump. It's proof these guys will be around for awhile." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Dancing, fun, and bold faith ("Radiator") Song Highlights: "Dance Or Die," "Wake The Dead," "Get Your Back Off The Wall," "Fever," "D-I-E 4 Y-O-U"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Dance Or Die? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
This week marks the end of 2008 and the beginning of another new year. As we look ahead to another promising year for new music, we look back at another catalog of releases. Incidentally, JFH staff pickedHouse Of Heroes' The End Is Not The End as their favorite album of 2008, which should finally hit stores nationwide early '09 (possibly February 24th). The End Is Not The End is a solid collection of indie rock songs that are as accessible and catchy as they are fresh and deep. From lighter subject matter ("If," "Leave You Now,") to much deeper fare ("Voices," "Field Of Daggers," "In The Valley Of The Dying Sun"), The End Is Not The End has a little for everyone as well as plenty of food for thought. If you haven't picked it up because you're waiting for a physical copy (and haven't seen them live to get one or been able to find a copy online), this will certainly be worth the wait to pick it up in a couple months when it finally hits streets!
Anyone else have this one? Let us know if you recommend it and what your thoughts are on it!
Our synopsis: "The fusion of music and written word of this caliber is so rare these days, but House of Heroes has succeeded where most have tried and failed. Easily the best record of 2008." (Recommended by JFH's Josh Taylor) Perfect For: Relationships, Spiritual life, fun Song Highlights: "If," "Out Of Control," "Leave You Now," "Field Of Daggers," "In The Valley Of The Dying Sun"... all of it, really!
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album The End Is Not The End? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Only a couple more days 'til it's Christmas -- a time of giving and receiving as we celebrates God's gift of His Son to us once again! This also a time of year filled with all kinds of emotions - from joy to sadness, sentimental thoughts to melancholy musings, it can be pretty up and down. This year, the newly reunited Sixpence None The Richer returned to music with a full-length Christmas album titled The Dawn Of Grace. Now, while I admit it's not quite the quintessential Sixpence Christmas album we've all been waiting for, The Dawn Of Grace is a decent and unique Christmas offering that successfully covers a wide array of emotions, born out of the artists' own happiness and sorrow. Leigh Nash's silky smooth vocals make this one especially worth a listen. Personal favorites include the traditionals, like "Silent Night" featuring Jars of Clay's Dan Haseltine and an added verse the singer wrote himself, as well as "Angels We Have Heard On High" and "Carol Of The Bells."
Anyone else have this one? Let us know if you recommend it and what your thoughts are on it!
Our synopsis: "A little rough around the edges, but this unique and daring Christmas venture from Sixpence captures the joy and sadness of the holiday season." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Sitting by the fireplace with a cup of cocoa and a pensive heart. Song Highlights: "Silent Night," "Christmas For Two," "Carol Of The Bells"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album The Dawn Of Grace? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Man... Christmas '08 is next week?! Where in the world did this year go?? Well, it's tradition to be cranking the holiday tunes more fervently by this time of the year, and as I'm typing this, my Christmas iTunes playlist is rolling (I love the work of composer Percy Faith... amazing!!!). There have been some solid Christmas offerings from CCM artists over the years. Among them is Rebecca St. James' 1997 project, simply titled Christmas. Rebecca was just 20 years old when her Christmas debut released and it features a nice mix of electronic pop and rock to offer some fresh updates of familiar traditional and modern Christmas tunes. It's still a great listen 11 years later! ~ John
Anyone else have this one? Let us know if you recommend it and what your thoughts are on it!
Our synopsis: "A very unique sound that can only be found in a Rebecca Christmas project. An annual favorite!." (Recommended by JFH's Wayne Myatt) Perfect For: Worship during the Christmas season! Song Highlights: "Sweet Little Jesus Boy," "One Small Child," "Happy Christmas," and "Silent Night"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Christmas? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
This week, it seems only appropriate to recommend another Christmas album. In 2003, pop punk rockers Relient K produced a Christmas EP, creatively titled, Deck The Halls, Bruise Your Hand, and packaged it with their third studio album, Two Lefts Don't Make a Right... But Three Do, later the same year. The EP was a success and after being re-released the following year, the band expanded the 10-song EP into a delicious 17-track project last year, entitled Let It Snow Baby... Let It Reindeer. Now, the 2003 Relient K is light years different than the 2007 (and even the 2008) Relient K, so the record is a bit all over the place having the past and present mixed together. Arguably, the newer stuff is the strongest and the most timeless, but the original EP still possesses a unique energy and charm. This year, the band releases three MORE (?!) Christmas tunes to add to this release and posted them on iTunes with a fun little video for "Sleigh Bells," making the latest 20-track version of this project the quintessential must-have. I've never personally considered myself a fan of Relient K, but I admit you'd be hard pressed to find a better rock Christmas album than Let It Snow Baby... Let It Reindeer.
Anyone else have this one? Let us know if you recommend it and what your thoughts are on it!
(Remember, we want YOUR comments on how the record has affected you. But please keep in mind, this is NOT for your own reviews.)
Relient K Let It Snow Baby... Let It Reindeer (2007)
Our synopsis: "Relient K build upon a strong 2003 EP with this full-length 2007 Christmas release that blends traditional and modern with alt rock and pop punk flavors chock-full of fun and heart." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase... and Josh Taylor) Perfect For: A rockin' fun record at Christmas time, Christmas cheer, remembering the reason for the season. Song Highlights: "Sleigh Bells," "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," "O Holy Night" (2008 download), "I Celebrate The Day," "Merry Christmas, Here's To Many More."
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Let It Snow Baby... Let It Reindeer? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
December 1st! Omigoodness, where did 2008 go?! Well, the end of the year is inevitably approaching, and with its approach comes CHRISTMAS! It's my favorite holiday and time of the year, which is due in part to the season's music! I grew up with the music that my grandfather passed down to my mother, so any modern music that can even slightly capture the Christmas mood and sound great scores points in my book. The best modern Christmas album to come along in quite some time is arguably Jars of Clay's 2007 release, Christmas Songs. It's modern and classic in places where appropriate, and upbeat, unique, and pensive. It's a deep collection that also knows it's okay to have a little fun, like on the duet "Hibernation Day."
So now that the turkey has digested and Black Friday has passed (but this week is... Cyber Monday?! Just what we need -- TWO shopping frenzy days! *shakes head*), it's time to dust off the Christmas records and get in the Christmas mood!
Anyone else have this one? Let us know if you recommend it!
(Remember, we want YOUR comments on how the record has affected you. But please keep in mind, this is NOT for your own reviews.)
Our synopsis: "Jars' Christmas Songs was THE Christmas album of 2007. As Christmas '08 approaches, grab this one for getting into the holiday spirit!" (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Christmas cheer, remembering the reason for the season, and music to cozy up to someone with. Song Highlights: "Wonderful Christmas Time," "Hibernation Day," "Winter Skin," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," and "Peace Is Here."
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Christmas Songs? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
This week, since I've been going back in time a lot lately to some 90's or early 00 releases, I thought it might be appropriate to look back on 2008 a bit. First off, congratulations are in order to Third Day who took home an American Music Award last night (for "Favorite Contemporary Inspirational")! And with the release of their latest studio album, Revelation, this past July, we want to spotlight it as one of the highlights of the 2008.
After Third Day went edgier for their album Wire, they took a more the pop/contemporary route for the less favorable (but still had some highlights), Wherever You Are. Their latest, Revelation, returns the band to more of a rock format and they haven't sounded quite this good in some time! Kind of imagine if their 1999 release Time was a little edgier throughout, with mainstream quality production as well, and you have an idea of where Revelation lies in the Third Day anthology. It's also very refreshing to have the honest in a track like the title song. The chorus especially strikes a chord with me:
Give me a revelation
Show me what to do
‘Cause I’ve been trying to find my way
I haven’t got a clue
Tell me should I stay here
Or do I need to move
Give me a revelation
I’ve got nothing without you
So... Anyone else pick this one up yet? Let us know if you recommend it!
Our synopsis: "Third Day is at the top of their game with this encouraging collection of southern rock anthems for the Christian walk." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Encouragement through uncertain times, faith, confidence Song Highlights: "Revelation," "This Is Who I Am," "The Otherside," "Slow Down," "Call My Name"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Revelation? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
This week, we've released the JFH staff's Top 15 Albums of All Time. One of the titles that shows up on several of the lists is hardcore / rock band Project 86's 2000 sophomore album, Drawing Black Lines. For me, this is the album that got me into the band and would remain my favorite full album from them to this day. As well as containing one of my favorite songs by them ("Stein's Theme"), it's solid from beginning to end, including bold songs of faith as well as haunting anthems that even tackle such sensitive topics as pornography ("PS"). "Me Against Me" is one of those songs many believers who fight the sinful nature can relate to, while the infectious "One Armed Man (Play On)" rips into the party scene to expose its ugly side. Project has gone on to record several stellar record since then, but Drawing Black Lines has less bitter angst than the delectible Songs To Burn Your Bridges By and feels more cohesive stylistically than their latest, Rival Factions. I can understand the band's frustration in trying to create each new album with hopes to top this one (and in some fans' minds, they have), but even when the day comes that they might truly top Drawing Black Lines, this will still remain a hard-hitting and memorable collection of rock songs.
Anyone else familiar with this record? Let us know if you recommend it!
(Remember, we want YOUR comments on how the record has affected you. But please keep in mind, this is NOT for your own reviews.)
Our synopsis: "Intense hardcore tour de force that remains the band's best effort." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Struggles with peer pressure, emptiness, lust. Anthems for the faith Song Highlights: "Stein's Theme," "Me Against Me," "One Armed Man," "Chapter 2," "Set Me Up"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Drawing Black Lines? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
So it probably seems strange that so far all five of these "We Recommend" blogs go back at least several years, with four of them taking us back to the 90's. The reasoning for this is that most current music is what gets the most focus as new tunes are coming out almost daily. However, musical gems still exist on the shelves of many music stores as well as music fan collections. For this, our fifth "We Recommend" Blog, I'm taking us back to 1997 with Switchfoot's The Legend Of Chin. My older brother worked for a local "mom n' pop"-owned Christian bookstore called "Hackman's Bible Bookstore" at the time and brought home the demo for The Legend Of Chin. I popped it in and didn't really care for what I heard. This little San Diego alt pop rock outfit was too indie for my more contemporary-rock teen tastes. But one afternoon, while watching a Christian music video show as part of my afternoon routine, I caught the video for "Chem 6A" and instantly became interested. I ran back upstairs, snatched up The Legend Of Chin and the rest is history. While it's not their best record, there's plenty of depth in this quirky Switchfoot album to make it well worth the listen eleven years later - if only just to experience this incredible band's humble beginnings. I still especially like "Chem 6A," "Life and Love and Why," the melancholic "Don't Be There," and a song I related all too well at the age of 17, "Might Have Ben Hur." (haha!)
Anyone else familiar with this record? Let us know if you recommend it!
(Remember, we want YOUR comments on how the record has affected you. But please keep in mind, this is NOT for your own reviews.)
Our synopsis: "This was the start of something really great. Definitely a 'legendary' rock release." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Teen life, Love, Melancholy rainy days, pensive listening Song Highlights: As stated before... "Chem 6A," "Life and Love and Why," "Don't Be There," "Concrete Girl," and "Might Have Ben Hur."
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album The Legend Of Chin? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
For our fourth "We Recommend" Blog, we're going back to February, 2006, with Newsboys' , Take Me To Your Leader. I'll never forget picking up this record on release day, sitting on my bed and listening to it for the first time. A solid record from beginning to end, Take Me To Your Leader is a well-balanced pop rock album that is silly and intense at just the right moments. Whether it's singing about how Hell will be no picnic (and therefore, there won't be breakfast served there!) or it's looking at much more dark topics like the laziness and complacency that some believers fall prey to, this album offers a little for everyone. Take Me To Your Leader also serves as further proof that Newsboys aren't just a youth group pop band for teens. The brilliance of pairing the Aussies with Steve Taylor's production and writing talents comes to full bloom on this album. This record was also recorded live in the studio which gives it much more of a raw rock sound than previously heard - or even since - from Newsboys.
Anyone else familiar with this record? Let us know if you recommend it!
(Remember, we want YOUR comments on how the record has affected you. But please keep in mind, this is NOT for your own reviews.)
Newsboys Take Me To Your Leader (1996)
Click here for a Reader Review and "Our Two Cents"
Our synopsis: "A strong rock record with heart and relativity. Possibly their best." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Bad days, Forgiveness, Fun, Worship Song Highlights: "Lost The Plot" is a moody and sarcastic reflection on the plague of complacency on Christians while "Breathe" is a brutally honest rocker about needing God's special touch on days when being like Christ is the last thing we feel capable of doing. And the "Benediction" is a beautiful response. But we can't completely forget the fun title track and the unforgettable hit, "Breakfast."
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Take Me To Your Leader? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
For our third "We Recommend" Blog, we have Rock N Roll Worship Circus' (now The Listening) with their 2004 EP, The Listening. This EP was the beginning of the transitions from the Rock N Roll Worship Circus to their current state as "The Listening." It was an amazing metamorphosis. A dark but hopeful and ultimately beautiful collection of songs with a fresh heart for worship. "I Love The Rain" is easily the best song on the EP and one that shouldn't be quickly forgotten.
Anyone else familiar with this record? Let us know if you recommend it!
Also, be sure to check out The Listening's latest EP Transmission #1 which the band independently released.
Rock N Roll Worship Circus (The Listening) The Listening EP (2004)
Our synopsis: "By far my favorite CD of 2004, this is one unique worship record that breaks molds." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Intimate Worship, Bold Faith Song Highlights: What's not a highlight?! "I Love The Rain" is still one of my favorite songs of all time.
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album The Listening EP? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Many probably don't realize Skillet has been around since 1996 (the same year JFH came into existence, actually!), and I have fond memories of listening to this record a lot when it released. They were just a three-piece then and several years would still go by before frontman John Cooper's keyboard playing wife Korey would join the band.
Anyone else familiar with this record? Let us know if you recommend it!
Our synopsis: "Every great band has their beginnings. This debut is still a fun grunge rock record to listen to." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Forgiveness, Surrender, Faith Song Highlights: "I Can" is still an amazing reminder of Christ's forgiveness, "Gasoline," "Promise Blender" is a wonderful reminder of God's faithfulness when we are not...
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Skillet? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Welcome to the first ever "We Recommend" Blog! For a few years now, we've selected a record that we feel is well worth a recommendation from one (or more) of the JFH staff to YOU and placed it in a little box on the front page of Jesusfreakhideout.com. Well, we've decided it's about time to include you guys into the mix as well. How so? Well, here's the deal...
"We Recommend" includes our little one-line review plus a sort of "prescription," if you will. If you're looking for more thoughtful music or a worship record we feel breaks out of the box, we might specify that the record is "Perfect For" just that. Need a pick-me-up? Perhaps we know a record that works for us. So here's where YOU come in.
Each week, we will continue recommending a different record and then post a blog for it here for YOU to comment on how the record has affected you. But please keep in mind - *This is NOT FOR YOUR OWN REVIEWS* We're not looking for Reader Reviews here at all. This is where you can share on how a song or the whole album has affected you, maybe touched you in a certain way, and how you would recommend it to someone else (we won't approve comments that are just posts of reviews). Also, is this the first time you're even hearing about the record we're recommending? Let us - and others - know what you think about it you get a chance to check it out.
Anyway, here's the first one. Since Sixpence None The Richer is back this week with a new Christmas album, how about their 1997 self-titled gem!
Sixpence None The Richer Sixpence None The Richer (1997)
Our synopsis: "This record put them on the map. Artistic, melancholy, and lovely, this one's memorable indeed." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Rainy days, Romantic relationships, Patience, Perseverance. Song Highlights: "The Waiting Room," "Sister, Mother," "Love," among others...
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Sixpence None The Richer? Do you recommend it? If so, why?