Steven Curtis Chapman|
"Any JFH reader familiar with me will not be surprised by this. The number of ways Chapman has touched my life through either his music or his story are too numerous to count. From him possibly having my all-time favorite album (Speechless) to inspiring me to want to adopt someday, his songs have formed the soundtrack of my life more than any other, and will continue to do so well on into the future."
Favorite Albums: Speechless, Beauty Will Rise, Declaration
Favorite Songs: "Dive" "Speechless" "God Is God" "February 20th" "Cinderella" and many, many more
"Never mind that he might be the singular most influential Christian artist on this side of Larry Norman, even as a non-music-fan six-year old hearing that his brother's favorite musician had died, I could recognize that his songs were special. Rich Mullins is the first artist I have conscious memory of listening to, and my admiration for him as both a musician and a human being has only ever grown. If you haven't listened to Mullins, or the only thing you know is that he wrote "Awesome God," go listen to "The Color Green" on Youtube right now."
Favorite Albums: Songs, A Liturgy, A Legacy, and A Ragamuffin Band
Favorite Songs: "The Color Green" "Sometimes By Step" "Sing Your Praise To The Lord" "Creed" "52:10"
"Easily the most recent and fastest-rising artist on my list, In the past two years I have not listened to a single album more often and with more enjoyment than Light For The Lost Boy. I constantly find myself asking why Peterson isn't the most popular Christian artist in the world. What don't people like? What listener wouldn't want to listen to "After The Last Tear Falls" or "You'll Find Your Way," or the 10-minute masterpiece "Don't You Want To Thank Someone?" Why can't these beautiful songs with beautiful lyrics be played around the clock on the radio? If I weren't such longtime fans of Chapman and Mullins, Peterson would easily be my favorite artist."
Favorite Albums: Light For The Lost Boy, The Burning Edge Of Dawn, Carried Along
Favorite Songs: "Don't You Want To Thank Someone" "After The Last Tear Falls" "The Reckoning" "The Rain Keeps Falling"
"When it comes to Beautiful Eulogy, each track is like a theology lesson. I became acquainted with BU when I started becoming really interested in theology, so it was perfect timing. I thought it would be hard for a Gospel Rap album to be better than Satellite Kite until I listened to Instruments of Mercy. And perhaps no rappers have more Gospel in their music than Beautiful Eulogy. For only having two made two albums, they remain two of my all-time favorites. Plus, they give away their music for free, so you have no excuse not to listen to and enjoy them."
Favorite Albums: Satellite Kite, Instruments of Mercy
Favorite Songs: "You Can Save Me" "Entitlement" "Symbols and Signs" "Acquired in Heaven" "An Open Letter To Whoever's Listening"
"As strong an artist as Propaganda is, he finds himself here due to the awesome strength of one single album, Excellent, which singlehandedly shifted my whole paradigm. I wasn't even a hip-hop fan until I listened to Excellent, but not long after listening I realized that Hip-hop, more than any other genre, tells their audience more about God, each other, the Bible, and life in general that they need to hear. His song "Precious Puritans" is probably the finest song in existence which addresses the complex relationship of Christianity in modern culture."
Favorite Albums: Excellent, Crimson Chord
Favorite Songs: "Precious Puritans" "I Ain't Got An Answer" "Don't Listen To Me" "Forgive Me For Asking" "Bored of Education"
Jars of Clay|
"Another holdover from my pre-music fandom days, my earliest memories of Jars was my annoyance how my brother had replaced most of the music on my Madden video game with Jars music. I came around within a couple years, and eventually came around to realize that Jars constantly sounded different than "normal" Christian music, and I liked it much better. Jar's self-titled debut is probably one of my top-five most replayed albums ever (excluding SCC albums, which would likely claim all my top five spots), and no band has ever evolved more as a singular, unchanging unit than these four men."
Favorite Albums: Jars of Clay, The Long Fall Back To Earth, Who We Are Instead
Favorite Songs: "Love Song For A Savior" "He" "Closer" "Flood" "Boys (Lesson One)"
"No band ever came as close to a truly and unashamedly creative worship album as this asterisk-laden band, and they did it three times. Possibly the most ambitious musical group in the history of Christian Music, it would take hours to talk about all the symbolism, double-meanings, allusions, or unorthodox methods the DC*B employed, and they provided unmistakable proof that creative music can be wildly commercially successful. Call it a perfect storm, lightning in a bottle, or whatnot, these guys were good."
Favorite Albums: A Collision, Church Music, Give Us Rest, Illuminate
Favorite Songs: "O Praise Him" "Come Find Me" "Oh Happiness" "SMS (Shine)" "Open Sky"
"A random discovery I made by browsing through the JFH review archive a few years back, Iona instantly and completely captured my attention by their swirling, ethereal Celtic rock and airy, angelic vocals. As an athlete, I usually forwent the trend of listening to beat driven, high-energy music to pump me up before races, and instead listened to hours Iona. The music itself is beautiful enough without vocals (about half their music is instrumental), but adding deep, abstract, and theologically-driven lyrics makes it all the more awe-inspiring."
Favorite Albums: Open Sky, The Book Of Kells, Journey Into The Morn
Favorite Songs: "When I Survey" "Revelation" "Open Sky" "Woven Chord"
"An amazingly unique individual, McNease is an independent artist, part rapper, part singer-songwriter, known for producing massive quantities of free music in short periods of time and wearing his convictions on his sleeve. My respect for him isn't necessarily for his music (although that good enough by itself), but more for his sheer dedication to both his craft and his artistic integrity. Plus, he has created both the most outstanding C.S. Lewis and bounce house tributes ever."
Favorite Albums: Weight of Glory, Thrift Store Jesus, Jesus Shuttlesworth Mixtape, Among Thieves
Favorite Songs: "Mere Christianity" "Groundhog Day" "The Great Divorce" "Bounce House"
Levi The Poet|
"A niche artist in the niche market of spoken word, Levi first blew me away with the instrument-less "Kaleidoscope" from JFH's first indie sampler in 2012, and has continued to do so many times since. To describe him as "raw" would be an understatement, and while his more recent material has mellowed some (at least on the ears), he still fearlessly pours out story after heart-wrenching story. He most recently diverted from his largely autobiographical discography for a fictional story-album, and his transition is seemless."
Favorite Albums: Seasons, Correspondence (a fiction)
Favorite Songs: "Kaleidoscope" "Resentment" "Pretty In Pornography" "Chapter Six: Traditional Values Worldview" "Harsh Man"
"A pioneer of modern worship music, there likely would be no David Crowder*Band without the standard for creative worship that Delirious? set. Before Iona, Delirious? was my favorite choice in pre-race music, and to this day, I still associate Glo and World Service with particular athletic facilities."
Favorite Albums: Glo, World Service, King Of Fools
Favorite Songs: "My Glorious" "Rain Down" "God Your My God/Glow In The Dark Part 1" "Did You Feel The Mountain Tremble?" "Chapter Six: Traditional Values Worldview" "Harsh Man"
"I've gotta stand behind my fellow Minnesotan and fellow (former) teacher. Sara Groves simply makes beautiful music. In her long career, she has been astonishingly consistent while constantly running under the radar due to her mellow approach to pop music. Even so, while her more recent albums have grown more melancholy and she has distanced herself from mainstream CCM, her popularity has grown substantially in recent years. And her album Conversations probably lays claim to being my favorite album from a female solo artist."
Favorite Albums: Conversations, Add To The Beauty, The Other Side Of Something
Favorite Songs: "The Word" "Jeremiah" "When It Was Over" "Less Like Scars"
"No other artist in my experience has been able to spew snarkiness and sarcasm in a more fun way than this guy. Not to say that all he does is spew, because his music has a lot more depth and relatability than that. And I certainly wouldn't appreciate him as much as I do if his music and his flow wasn't so unique. Amongst all his impressive accomplishments (including one of my most replayed albums in recent memory with The Boy Vs. The Cynic), no song has ever related to my inner cynic as "Have No Opinion?"
Favorite Albums: The Boy Vs. The Cynic, Professional Rapper, Word of Mouth
Favorite Songs: "Have No Opinion?" "Word of Mouth" "Out of Control" "Chapter 1" "Sales Pitch"
Michael W. Smith|
"An artist that I had heard of and occasionally listened to in my pre-music fandom days, it wasn't until I began collecting his entire discography in 2011 that my appreciation for him began to really take off. His immense popularity at his peak is easy to understand, as almost every one of his studio projects is not only appealing and embodies almost everything good about bombasticity, but literally every single one of his 20 studio, Christmas, and instrumental albums takes on a unique and distinct musical direction. I can't even say that about Chapman, Mullins, Peterson, or anyone else on my list with much smaller discographies!"
Favorite Albums: Live The Life, Wonder, Change Your World, Michael W. Smith II
Favorite Songs: "Missing Person" "Love Me Good" "I Am Sure" "Take Me Over" "Agnus Die"
Adam Young/Owl City|
"I had known about Adam Young and his story for about two years before I actually began listening to him. When I did, I was eager to make up for lost time. Positive emotions flow from his music like water from a holey bucket, though while he tends to indulge in the saccharine and whimsical at times, I will never fully understand why he is so often criticized for being shallow. Although to be honest, while I do adore his Owl City projects, my favorite Adam Young album has to be his mellower Sky Sailing project An Airplane Carried Me To Bed."
Favorite Albums: An Airplane Carried Me To Bed, Ocean Eyes, All Things Bright And Beautiful
Favorite Songs: "Galaxies" "Fireflies" "On The Wing" "Steady As She Goes"
I feel kinda bad leaving off the Newsboys because they were the first band I ever truly fell in love with, but I haven't listened to them enough recently to justify including them, however much I still do love their old material. Same with Switchfoot. Both bands just missed this list. I also was forced to leave off Project 86, House of Heroes, Anberlin, Showbread, and Plumb despite really enjoying many albums in their discography. I'll also give a shout-out to Kings Kaleidoscope, Skillet, Burlap to Cashmere, Rebecca St. James, NEEDTOBREATHE, Lecrae, and Underoath for having made of my favorite individual albums, plus Ascend The Hill and The Ember Days for my indie-worship-loving side.
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