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JFH Staff Blog | ...where the staff speak their minds

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Circle My Dreams by Acoustic Truth


I have prayed to God my entire life. He knows every word I say, even before I pray it. ‘Circle My Dreams’ is a song that came out of a season of sadness, uncertainty, and worry. It too, came from a season of hope, joy, and trust. How can the two be true at the same time? Let me explain…

After my son was born, my husband and I were having some marriage issues. We were unequally yoked and battling wounds from our pasts all while trying to raise a little child. It was then that I found myself chatting with a family member about a devotional she was reading- this devotional was all about meeting God in prayer. Every day I would read a devotion and see how God would answer the prayers of people in the bible, American leaders, or your every day average Joe. God would respond with an answer that worked things out for the good of His children (even if that good wasn’t what he or she wanted or didn’t come in the time frame they expected).

It was then that I began to recognize that my prayer life, although very genuine up until that point, lacked commitment and lacked enthusiasm; it lacked trust and hope. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I didn’t have faith to move mountains before, but I learned that sometimes, in order to get those mountains moved, we first and foremost needed a game plan from our Father that we could only access if we spent time with Him. I was changing my genie image of God into an image of a Lord who knows what is best for me.

That’s when I literally started making blue post-it-notes prayer requests and hanging them all over my closet. That’s when my knees became sore and when I woke up, exhausted, in the dark hours of the morning just to seek God with all my heart, even if I was ‘tempted by sweet sleep’ as the first verse says. That’s when I found some answers, and when I learned it was okay to not get the answers I wanted or thought I wanted. That’s when I found out that even while I was waiting on God’s plan and promises, I could have joy and that even when I was depending on my Father for healing, for provision, for direction and you name it, I could trust in His plan. He is a rescuer, he gives us victory, He heals, He softens hearts of stone, He loves us, He cares about us more than the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, and He knew us before we were formed in our mother’s wombs- I wouldn’t want to put my trust in anyone else. After my devotional book ended I continued meeting God in my prayer closet and one morning, these lyrics just filled my prayer journal and I told God that I wanted to share this song with the world. A few years later, with tears of joy running down my cheeks as I write this, I can say that He is answering that 4 am prayer, as He continues giving me game plans for those blue post-it-note prayer requests.

“Nothing can compare to the promises He keeps when you’re on your knees, so keep circling!”

Sarah Knott of Acoustic Truth


Link to song: iTunes


Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Looking For Some Light - Albums & Songs Of The Year 2020 by Alex Caldwell

Looking For Some Light - Albums & Songs Of The Year 2020

Some Thoughts On The Music That Pointed Me Towards The Light This Year

At this point, it’s almost a universal truth that the whole world is waiting for the calendar to flip the page to the next year. My 2020 started with loud, pulsating music. I celebrated the new year by dancing in the middle of a city square with my family as a DJ spun funky (family friendly) dance tunes for all those who dared to brave the cold on a New England winter evening at midnight. The square that the festivities were celebrated in is flanked by a beautiful old church that the Puritans built more than two hundred years ago. The irony of dancing madly in sight of our Puritan forefathers was not lost on me as we counted down the seconds to a new year. As the clock crept towards 12:30 in the morning, my family and I wearily made our way back to our hotel, exhausted, but looking forward to the new year.

As you all know, things took a decided turn in the third month of the year, and the last true “normal” activity I participated in was a concert at a wonderful new venue in my area. It was a last-minute decision to go see one of my family’s favorite bands, Darlingside, on a school night.  (Drop everything right now and go listen to the complete works of this fantastic folk-rock quartet… I’m happy to wait.) Then, boom, the world turned upside down.

I recount this similar history to all of us, because music has always been more than just a background activity for my family. It literally soundtracks our year and provides a wide window of perspective and commentary for how our days and month get remembered and filed away. And on the very best occasions, it provides catharsis and themes for life, giving words and melodies for thinking through the days that you find yourself in.

And for me, this year was all about looking for the light. In a dark time when we’re on the precipice of losing more fellow citizens that we did in the days of the Civil War, my faith says that even in the most desperate times, the Lord is at work. This year, for many, life looked more like the Biblical book of Lamentations than the “happy Psalms”. But even in the midst of that burned out city of Jerusalem, the prophet Jerimiah says in chapter 3 Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”


It seems to be burned in the human heart to look for hope, to “look for some light”.


And that’s why Colony House’s song “Looking For Some Light” became a theme (and theme song) in my life this year. Because when times get hard, and the comforts and normalcies of our lives are stripped away, we both look for some light (i.e. a truth that is higher than the comfort and security we used to know) and have a tremendous opportunity to share the light of hope that Jesus shines in our heart. How much panic and paranoia did you see and hear this year? That’s the sound of people’s presuppositions and paradigms shattering all around us. The things we looked to in a past age for hope (your bank account, your health, your job, etc.) have shown themselves to be rickety and temporary. And what is left behind needs to be cleared away to get a better view. That’s why I love the title of my favorite album this year; Leave What’s Lost Behind.



1.    Colony House – Leave What’s Lost Behind


I have a great love for band’s and artists that go for it, that is, reach for the stars and make the kind of music that can’t help but be termed “anthemic”. U2, Coldplay, Bruce Springsteen and The Killers (and Pink Floyd and The Who before them) traffic in this sort of cinematic, swelling music that stirs the blood, and these sons of CCM icon Steven Curtis Chapman (who are on their way to stepping out of their dad’s shadow) created the kind of album that rises and crashes. The fantastic, spacey and wide open “Looking For Some Light” carries both a big melody and a big theme all at once:

I look around a room that's filled with faces
Every tear a window to the soul
Like silent unsung symphonies
The wild and the wonderful mysteries
Masterpieces I will never know

'Cause everybody's looking for some light
You know everybody's looking for
Some light

Oh, and when the world is weighing on your shoulder
When the sorrow's heavy on your soul
Carry on and sing it like a soldier
Saying, "Come on! Come on!
We're gonna make it home!"

'Cause everybody's looking for some light


From that bombastic opening to the swelling final track “The Hope Inside”, nothing moved me like this album. It’s the kind of big statement music that I’m looking for every year. And in this memorable year, this collection gave me new perspective and took me on a journey of hope.



2.    John Mark McMillan - Peopled With Dreams

JMM is always welcome in my house. And Peopled With Dreams could easily have made its way to the top of my list. With his wizened perspective on faith and his Bruce Springsteen-like voice, this writer of the beloved worship song “How He Loves” has moved far beyond just being associated with that song; releasing fantastic, thematic albums of poignant observations about being a follower of Christ in this troubling time when faith gets too easily hijacked by political or cultural considerations. The song “Pilgrim” has also served as a theme for me this year:

There is a heavenly city
That I'm compelled to find
Oh I love the flowers and trees
And, the smell of the grinding seed
And all the, beautiful things here in life

I, I'm a pilgrim here
On this side of the great divide
I'm a pilgrim here
But I walk with you for awhile

Nobody’s ever quite ready
But they all take the ride
Many have died, for the promise inside
They never got, to see it in their time

I, I'm a pilgrim here
On this side of the great divide
I'm a pilgrim here
But I walk with you for a while


3.    John Guerra - Keeper Of Days

John Guerra was a new name for me this year, but one listen to this album got me hooked. Hiding within its quiet, folky instrumentation are some of the fiercest, most incendiary, and thought-provoking lyrics released this year. Exhibit A: The fiery “Citizens”, a track that could fuel a Rage Against The Machine song, but veers more towards Bob Dylan at his most prophetic. 

(Lyrics printed in full because every line resonated with me.)

I have a heart full of questions
Quieting all my suggestions
What is the meaning of Christian
In this American life?

I'm feeling awfully foolish
Spending my life on a message
I look around and I wonder
Ever if I heard it right

Coming to you 'cause I'm confused
Coming to you 'cause I feel used
Coming to weep while I'm waiting
Tell me you won't make me go

I need to know there is justice
That it will roll in abundance
And that you're building a city
Where we arrive as immigrants
And you call us citizens
And you welcome us as children home

You were alone and rejected
Misunderstood and detested
You gave it all, didn't hold back
You even gave up your life

How can we call ourselves Christians
Saying that love is a tension
Between the call of the cross and
Between the old party line

Coming to you for the mothers
Who are all running for cover
There is a flood from their weeping
Tell me you won't make them go

I need to know there is justice
That it will roll in abundance
And that you're building a city
Where we arrive as immigrants
And you call us citizens
And you welcome us as children home

There is a man with a family
He has a wife and a baby
He broke the law just to save them
Working for three bucks an hour

Truly you said we were equal
Everyone's heart is deceitful
Everyone born is illegal
When love is the law of the land

Coming to you for the hungry
Eating the scraps of this country
Didn't you swear you would feed them
Tell me you won't make them go

I need to know there is justice
That it will roll in abundance
And that you're building a city
Where we arrive as immigrants
And you call us citizens
And you welcome us as children home

There is a wolf who is ranting
All of the sheep they are clapping
Promising power and protection
Claiming the Christ who was killed

Killed by a common consensus
Everyone screaming "Barabbas"
Trading their God for a hero
Forfeiting Heaven for Rome

Coming to you 'cause I'm angry
Coming to you 'cause I'm guilty
Coming to you 'cause you've promised
To leave the flock for the one

I need to know there is justice
That it will roll in abundance
And that you're building a city
Where we arrive as immigrants
And you call us citizens
And you welcome us as children home

Where we arrive as immigrants
And you call us citizens
And you welcome us as children home

Is there a way to love always?
Living in enemy hallways
Don't know my foes from my friends and
Don't know my friends anymore

Power has several prizes
Handcuffs can come in all sizes
Love has a million disguises
But winning is simply not one




4.    Jason Gray - Order, Disorder, Reorder

Here is what I wrote about this album in my review:

“Order, Disorder, Reorder is a rare beast, a true CCM "concept album" that masterfully drives home its theme with solid pop music craftsmanship. While perhaps not as musically adventurous as Gray's last full album, it is stacked with great melodies and heart-felt lyrics and performances. Gray is both a restless soul and a dependable artist, and there is nothing contradictory about those terms. Order, Disorder, Reorder is one of the most introspective and moving pieces of music you will hear this year.”


5.    Needtobreathe - Out Of Body

Here is what I wrote about this album in my review:

“Many artists desire to offer advice in their works, but NEEDTOBREATHE transcends that sometimes tired trope on Out Of Body. In a difficult year, the band has managed the sometimes-unwieldy trick of offering genuine encouragement to the listener without talking down to their audience. And in doing so, the band has offered up one of this tough year's best albums, full of moving, thoughtful lyrics and terrific melodies.”


6.    Rend Collective - Choose To Worship

Here is what I wrote about this album this year in my review:

“Rend Collective, that peppy Irish band with energy to spare, has always added an infectious level of authenticity to the modern worship scene. In a time when new praise and worship songs may elicit a cynical eye roll from many, Rend Collective has consistently shown themselves to be 100% honest and sincere in their desire to sing new songs long and loud to their Creator.

Ironically, a few months ago, the title of their newest batch of tunes, Choose To Worship would have drawn out a ho-hum response by many. But in the current troubles of our world, the title can serve to remind the listener that the word "worship" is both a noun and a verb. Worship is a direct choice that is made, regardless of the circumstances of the current moment. It may be an old cliché that "worship is a lifestyle," but Rend Collective do their best on this album to breathe life into a concept that is as old as the book of Psalms.

But pound for pound, dollar for dollar, Choose To Worship is a much-needed reminder of what the core of faith is, and that "worship" (like the word "love") is more than a thing, it is an action word and a choice we make, no matter the weather or circumstances outside our doors.”

7.    Elevation Worship - Graves Into Gardens

I knew that given enough time, the folks behind the Elevation Worship would one day produce a great, original and truly passionate worship album. Graves Into Gardens fits the bill, and provided me with my favorite corporate worship song of the year with its title track:

I searched the world
But it couldn't fill me
Man's empty praise
And treasures that fade
Are never enough

Then You came along
And put me back together
And every desire
Is now satisfied
Here in Your love (Hey)

Oh, there's nothing better than You
There's nothing better than You
Lord, there's nothing
Nothing is better than You (Oh)
(Yes, I know it's true)
(Come on, stand up, hey)

I'm not afraid
To show You my weakness
My failures and flaws
Lord, You've seen them all
And You still call me friend

'Cause the God of the mountain
Is the God of the valley
There's not a place
Your mercy and grace
Won't find me again (Come on, now)

Oh, there's nothing better than You
There's nothing better than You
Lord, there's nothing
Nothing is better than You
(I know it's true)

8.    Tyson Motsenbocker - Someday I’ll Make It All Up To You

Tyson Motsenbocker is an old soul and a West Coast guitar troubadour of a time gone by. His sharp, literary criticisms and observation on modern life and faith are worth your time to unpack. These lyrics from the sad and poignant drug overdose song “Fentanyl” capture the heartbreak of seeing a loved one waist away from a drug addiction (something that too many Americans face every day).

Rode our old motorbikes through Rancho, Santa Fe
Passed the Heaven's Gate mansion
Just a footprint where it lay
Before they tore it down to the ground

He handed me 300 and a pack of empty Marlboro
Told me to think of you, said I'll see how it goes
But I never did, 'cause everybody knows you

I want a second chance to talk
I want a second chance for you
Maybe you'd find Jesus or a twelve-step way through
But there's no goodbye calls with Fentanyl

Fentanyl, Fentanyl

Laughed at you in the parking lot the night you told me
Drove all the way to Baltimore without stopping to sleep
To watch the sun come up on the other side

Wide-eyed at the Atlantic tide
Maybe there's still something in there that I just can't find
To match how I feel about you leaving us behind
'Cause either way I think you hurt too bad for too long


9.    John Reuben – Self Titled

The sharp and witty (and don’t forget, humble) rapper John Reuben is welcome back to the music scene any time. Exhibit A: His self-titled album’s fantastic, slightly droll opening song “Secular Music”.

And I was always there for you
When you couldn’t listen to
Secular music
Secular music
And I would play your youth group
The alternative to
Secular music
Secular music

Sent away for pre-date to be raised by the fellowship
I guess it takes a village willing to live off the grid
Lost on me is your pop culture reference
Well I had no choice but to be alternative
Always had a birds-eye view from the pew
Always knew it’s an odd place
To try and make your power moves
How you gonna front when the church nursery’s your green room
And the set time’s early cause the kids got curfews?
We turned these absurdities into art
Every industry’s got an apple cart
But these were the days when distribution meant
The physical packages had to be boxed sealed and shipped
So I got a label and then got labeled
But I’m grateful cause that label made it capable to travel the globe
And talk to the faithful
Never know where a song might take you…

10.                       Off Road Minivan - Swan Dive

Old fashioned rock and roll is far from dead. These emo-rockers from Tooth & Nail records continue their winning streak with their great second album. The forceful opening track “It’s Harder To Make It Below Third” sounds like 80’s New Wave rock filtered through that romantic, heart-on-your-sleeve early 2000’s rock that I still love:

Warren Street left some shadows on my eye
Lovers walk toward the half-moon light
Broken bottle cuts into a woman’s face
Two young boys run but never could escape
They said "I don’t want your money, I want your soul"

Will we ever find our own way out of here?

Don’t go breaking my heart unless you let me go
(Let me go)
Can’t keep changing the rules we already broke
(Already broke)
All my life, nothing came my way
Everybody else is left to blame
Don’t go breaking my heart unless you let me go

And there is so much more great music released this year, this list is just the tip of the iceberg. My faith says there is always “light” out there, and these songs and albums helped me see it a little clearer. The good Lord is always at work.  For those who have “ears to hear” the music of faith - the authentic kind that fuels hope and life - it’s all around. I hope your faith increase this year.  Here’s to all the hills and valleys ahead, and the soundtrack that accompanies it.

May your fire burn brightly,

Alex "Tin Can" Caldwell

Thursday, December 17, 2020

6 Christmas Albums to Check Out from 2020


Michael Hughes Watson - Dayspring EP

Michael Hughes Watson is the former singer of the band Above the Golden State and Nations. With the song “The Haunting” being a personal favorite song of mine to come out of the “golden” era of Christian pop/rock, I’ve been excited to follow MHW’s solo career over the past few years. The Dayspring EP is only one week off the heels of a 10 track project called Life & Good | Death & Evil that is also worth checking out. With a few classics and an original quasi-Christmas song the heavy beats mixed with Watson’s angelic voice provide a really cohesive and aesthetic listen.


Tommee Profitt – The Birth Of A King

There’s been no shortage of excitement for this album among the JFH staff and readers. I’ve played this album (especially the fantastic rendition of “Go Tell It On The Mountain”) a few times since it came out earlier this year. It’s epic, accessible, and really intriguing. 17 cinematic tracks centered on the birth of Jesus with different singers from the music industry that come together with Profitt’s amazing production is quite an experience. Be sure to check out staff writer David Craft’s five star review  posted on JFH and listen to the podcast episode where interview Tommee Profitt about this album. 


Ubcmusic - Magnificat EP

A pre-Christmas EP inspired by the passage in Luke 1 before Jesus was born. These songs provide a perfect setting for the time right before the coming Christ. A feeling of anticipation permeates this EP with “Brightest” being a definite highlight (and also available as a free MP3 on our free indie download page). Also be on the lookout for a theologically rich and compelling conversation with lead singer Jameson McGregor on podcast episode #125 releasing this Wednesday – December 23, 2020.


The Sing Team – The Last Christmas On Earth EP

"A merry troupe of family and friends who are always ready to party to the glory of God." That’s a quote from their bio and it very well describes what you get with The Last Christmas on Earth EP. With a couple re-recorded songs from 2010 and a few new tracks, this EP is fun, whimsical, and quite unique. 


nobigdyl., DJ Mykael V – GIFT RAP

This is perhaps the least “Christmas-sounding” album present, only slightly below the Magnificat EP from Ubcmusic. Nobigdyl. captures this particular 2020 Christmas season with a lot of quarantine and covid references but also a nostalgic look at Christmases past. There’s a lot to unpack in this short tracklist but it’s definitely worth your time.


Flight Deck – Flight Deck the Halls EP

Two fun Christmas classics and an odd but beautiful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” are all that comprise the Flight Deck the Halls EP, but it’s definitely worth your time to check out this year. It’s pop/rock-y in nature and might make you think of a more tame Relient K Christmas. Produced by one of JFH’s favorite producer, Adam Watts, this is a top notch production and sure to provide an enjoyable listen for all ages.


Merry Hardstyle Christmas by DJ Flubbel


My name is DJ Flubbel, I am a Christian hardstyle producer from the Netherlands. Last week I released my first Christmas hardstyle EP for Charity. It all started a few months ago, when I was contacted by a fan from Belgium called Martin. He told me he was willing to donate a significant amount of money for my mission: spreading the Gospel using hardstyle music. At first, I was surprised by his offer. It even took me some time before I figured out how to respond. I decided to contact some of my international hardstyle-producer friends: The WLF (Netherlands), Coroxxon (Guatemala), Resonant Force (Mexico) and Stryptic (Holland). I donated the money to them in exchange of making cooperation tracks for my charity EP, called “Merry Hardstyle Christmas”. 

Christmas and hardstyle are two things I really love and cherish, especially right now, since we live in a dark time with a lot of uncertainty, growing polarization and the Corona virus spreading. For me this was one of the reasons why I decided to shine some Light in the hardstyle scene, by producing the Merry Hardstyle Christmas EP.

In my opinion Christmas is not about some weird guy in a red suit. No, it is about something far more important: the birth of Christ. He is our Light in these dark days. He is the One that will help you carry on and will protect you. I hope next year will be brighter than 2020. Please hang on! And keep faith! Know that God loves you; and He is waiting for you with open arms. I hope Christmas will be a season of love and Light for you too! May God bless you in 2021. 

-DJ Flubbel

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The NEW Album And Mission Of Rusty Shipp! by Russ T. Shipp


Ahoy, mates! Captain Russ T. Shipp of Rusty Shipp here with some BIG news!  A lot of new and exciting things have happened for us this year, including winning the 2020 JFH Awards for Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, and 3 other awards—which is all thanks to you wonderful JFH voters out there! 


Naturally, we’ve turned our gaze to the future, to the new songs and next album of Rusty Shipp, an album we hope to surpass the ambition and creativity of an award-winning album like ‘Liquid Exorcist.’ This next album is actually one we began working on BEFORE ‘Liquid Exorcist,’ a full-length concept album that started taking shape right after our ‘Mortal Ghost’ album’s release. But we decided to release an EP first before launching into another LP, and then that EP kept growing and becoming more complex until it became ‘Liquid Exorcist,’ a concept album in its own right, and kind of an EP/LP hybrid.  But now that we’ve been sitting on these new songs for a while, letting this new story marinate and grow for years, we’re very excited and confident that this will in fact be our biggest, best, most epic, most ambitious, most creative, ULTIMATE RUSTY SHIPP MASTERPIECE ALBUM!!! 


So if we’re attempting to make the ultimate, nautical rock ’n’ roll concept album, what could be a more nautical concept than the ocean itself?! With scientists saying that up to 95% of the ocean is still unexplored, who knows what could be lurking down there? The imagination naturally wanders to tales of sea monsters and lost, underwater civilizations, and we plan to take the listener on an underwater journey to the “Dark Side of the Ocean” to see what mysteries could be lurking there. The further down the rabbit hole we’ll go, the weirder and weirder it will get in this journey to the bottom. 


**More info on the album and its concept here:


But something else is bubbling up from the surface of the deep; in this case it’s a newfound sense of vision and mission in me (Russ T. Shipp), being the primary lyricist in the band. Whereas ‘Liquid Exorcist’ was very much an album of artistic expression, rich in imagery and soundscapes that brought the listener into scenes of 1940’s naval battles with sea mine terrorism, lately I’ve been convicted to have a different approach with this next album. Even before the challenges of 2020, I’ve become increasingly disturbed by the lack of fulfillment, purpose, vision, and happiness I see in the lives of people today, and I think the world needs so much more than a really creative, artistic concept album about the mysteries of the ocean; they need songs that will help them navigate these current times in the world, and the more direct circumstances of their daily lives. And so for this new album, I’ve undertaken a lofty, songwriting challenge: make a full-on, artistic concept album that journeys to the bottom of the sea (with all the fun that goes with that), while also addressing the fallout of 2020 and replacing that chaos with messages of hope and strength. I want to give people singable, mantra-like lyrics that will empower them, fill them with real hope they can cling to in their every day lives, that will grow their faith and purpose every time they sing them. 


We’ve been really getting more and more convicted and intentional in this band about what specific, clear messages we are wanting to communicate to people and get stuck in their heads. There is such incredible power that comes from making music and lyrics, and so we want to be responsible with that power to literally elevate the listener’s overall focus to one that is set on the most important, most life-giving things in life, and specifically the following: God’s desire for Shalom (or harmony) in the world, God’s desire for us to individually become ALL that He created us to be, God’s desire for us to love Him by loving all of His creations, and God’s desire for us to be raised— like Jesus— to eternal life after we die. If the most powerful being in the universe wants all of those things for us (harmony, fulfillment, unconditional love, and eternal life) and is indeed working all the time to give them to us, then really what is there left to be afraid of in this life? That is the message we want to get stuck in the world’s heads and hearts, and so we hope to accomplish that in this new album. 


Want to see if we accomplish our goal? Right now we’re allowing people early access to the album-making process when they preorder our new album, which includes getting a demo of one of the new songs, exclusive access to private live streams straight from the recording studio when we’re laying down the new tracks, and everyone who preorders will get the new album months before its public release! 


Really we need people’s help from this Presale so that we can have funding to pay for the recording sessions up front, so we’re trying to sweeten the deal for people by offering special, exclusive merch items and rewards that are ONLY available to people who preorder before December 8, when our Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign expires. Please watch the video and click the link below to find out more about the new concept of the album and also what special merch and rewards we’re giving out before the Presale ends on Dec. 8!


**Video about the new album:


HUGE thanks to anyone who believes in us and our music enough to help us bring these new songs into the world by contributing to our crowdfunding campaign!! 


And please join us on December 8th on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (Periscope) @6pm CST for a telethon-style live stream as we close out the final hours of our crowdfunding campaign with some live music from the band (including the revealing of a new song) and contests for FREE Rusty Shipp merch! See you there!


Hold fast to hope, everyone!

~Russ T. Shipp and the crew of Rusty Shipp


**Check out the new album Presale here:



Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Desperate: The Art Of Falling Forward by MC Hamsa


Picture this:

Crawling towards Jesus, on hands and knees; crying out, with a weak voice and tear-stained face. The rocks scrape your skin, and everything around you seems like darkness, but off in the distance you can make out a light. You struggle towards that light, no matter what, picking yourself up, falling, crawling, always moving toward the light.

This is the image God put in my mind one day while on my morning commute in sunny Southern California. I had been struggling with an addiction to pornography, and, having recently relapsed, my soul was in turmoil. It felt like no matter what I did, I just couldn’t seem to remain pure.

It’s at moments like this that I am reminded of the end of Romans 7, where Paul cries out in anguish, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” This exclamation follows a passage that all of us can relate to, one way or the other. We know what the right thing is, but we seem incapable of doing it. It’s almost as if we are imperfect beings, unable to achieve righteousness through our own effort.

Enter Jesus. No, I don’t mean, baby-in-a-manger Jesus, or even dying-on-the-Cross Jesus. I’m talking about the Jesus who spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well; who told the Pharisees to cast the first stone; who called to Peter from the shore after his resurrection. In all of these instances, Jesus shows His character as one who meets us in our brokenness and shame, knowing full well what we’ve done, yet still inviting us into a life that is surrendered to Him.

In my song, Desperate, I reference Zechariah 3, which is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. In this passage, the prophet Zechariah is shown a vision of the Accuser, Satan, confronting the High Priest Joshua with his faults, failures, and mistakes. But look how God responds:

And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan!

The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you!

Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?

Throughout the rest of the chapter, God goes on to remove Joshua’s filthy garments -  which he clarifies represent his sins - and dresses him in righteousness instead. This is a perfect illustration of what Jesus does for us when we enter into His presence. We show up, covered in the dirty rags of pride, lust, greed, and resentment, and He restores us, as we surrender these things to Him. Perhaps there was a reason that the very first word Jesus said in His ministry was, “Repent!”, which He followed up with the Good News, “The Kingdom of Heaven is here!

I don’t know what’s been weighing you down, keeping you from walking closely with Jesus, but I’d like to encourage you. Remember that you are not condemned (Romans 8), and that, though we may fall, Proverbs 24:16 tells us that we will get back up. In those moments, remember to fall forward.

By MC Hamsa


Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The Holy Spirit is our imPULSE by imPULSE Worship


“The Holy Spirit is our imPULSE

...our inspiration, guide, motivation - our lifeblood in the development of our craft, the writing of our original music, and the worship we facilitate. As a community we chase after the call to glorify Jesus’ name in freedom, with song, and full of joy. Some may call it impulsive - we call it: the worship imPULSE.”

We are imPULSE - a band of young people dedicated to worship through music, collaboration as artists, and fellowship as friends. We are born out of the youth program of a small church in Los Angeles, California, and strive to glorify God through our music. When COVID-19 hit, in person youth groups were put on hold. Without opportunities to play live worship sets, our band decided to invest in a new project. imPULSE Worship had officially been born.

In the midst of these unprecedented times, our team came together and set out on an adventure to organically discover and produce an anthem of worship relevant both to the situation of the world and to the condition of our hearts. We embark on this journey without the bolster of formal training, resources, production, or funding. Although not a single dollar was spent, what this project lacks in financial investment is surplussed by an investment of care, energy, talent, and time, all with the intention of developing the production of our song for God’s glory. Our single was birthed out of a desire to respond to the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, crafted by a group of friends in a humble closet home studio, and refined by our very own young technical producer.

Over the past couple months, our team collaborated over zoom meetings to write lyrics, choose chords, and pin down melodies for an original worship song.

The lyrics of our song are rooted in Romans 8:18 which says,

 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…(or other words) The pain that you’ve been feeling can’t compare to the joy that’s coming

The message of “Kingdom Coming” is one of hopeful anticipation for the day God’s plan will come to fruition in our world. For the time being, we can rest in the joy of knowing that the Holy Spirit provides breakthrough in our daily lives through the saving grace of Jesus Christ. This song serves as a reminder that in the midst of hardships, we can look forward to a greater joy that is on the way. 

imPULSE Worship

-imPULSE Worship Team is: Princess Badua (18), Anna Holyfield (18), Lianne Hong (16), Jordan Tritasavit (16), Matt Tritasavit (19), Noah Tyau (17)

Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Birth Of A King by Tommee Profitt

I have dreamed of making this album for 15 years. 

“A King is being born, welcomed by Angels, that is coming to save the entire world” ...that is an EPIC story. And my dream was to make an equally epic soundtrack to accompany that story! 

In 2005, one of my class assignments in college was to “re-arrange a Christmas song and make it your own” … the result was “Joy to the World 2 (He Is Come)”. I had so much fun doing it, and immediately knew that someday I wanted to make a massive Christmas album, re-arranging, and writing choruses, and putting my spin on Christmas classics. But I also knew I had to keep it timeless and classic at the same time; People don’t like it when you mess with their precious Christmas carols TOO much, so I knew there needed to be balance. 

I actually intended to make this Christmas album every year for the past several years, but every year time got away from me, I had too many projects on my plate, and I said “i’ll do it next year”. Well, when COVID-19 hit earlier this year, and the world shut down in quarantine… my schedule finally opened up, and I began production in March 2020. 

The following 5 months, I spent 12-13 hours a day, scribbling on paper, writing ideas, producing tracks, like a crazy scientist in his lab… it had to be right. There was 15 years of pressure on myself, and I wanted to do this once, and once only! 

So I began the process of figuring out each song. What could I do a LITTLE bit different to make each one feel unique, and cohesive throughout. I wanted to make a project that my ‘20 year old video game audience’ would love, but also my ‘65 year old moms baking christmas cookies in the kitchen’ audience would love. How could I produce an album that sounds like a movie soundtrack, that is for EVERYBODY! ...that was the biggest challenge. 

However, throughout the process, things morphed - it became less about the “sound” and the “production” … and became more about the message. I started realizing that an album like this is something that the world needs at the end of 2020 - arguably the worst year in history. People need hope right now. They’re craving it. And God started reshaping my vision, while keeping intact the integrity of my original vision… and I believe the album turned out to be the exact thing it’s supposed to be. 

As I was arranging these songs, a specific artist would come to mind. So I ended up arranging the entire thing around their voice, and their range, and blending their sound with mine… all before I even asked them! And I’m so grateful, because every artist ended up saying YES and they were all super excited to be involved. And they crushed it.

The result was 17 tracks, with 17 different featured artists. All of them, giving everything they had into their vocal performances, and recording the most dynamic versions of some of the most beloved Christmas classics. It feels like one giant collaboration… all of these eclectic artists, with different backgrounds, all coming together to make the most epic Christmas album ever made! 

While it was the most challenging project I’ve ever immersed myself in… it was also the most fun I’ve ever had working on a project in my life. It was so exciting finally seeing this vision come to fruition, and hearing where each song organically led during the process. At times, it’s dark and urban, with hiphop drums and 808’s and a gospel choir. All the while being soft and beautiful with piano and strings when necessary.

The entire thing is a story, meant to be listened to the same way you would watch a movie. I want it to be an experience. A cinematic journey that takes people somewhere. My prayer is that people go in thinking the’re just going to listen to Christmas music, but through the process, get hit with powerful moments that impact them in ways they weren’t expecting. 

A story so beautiful and epic deserves the same kind of treatment. That was the main goal, and I hope people are reminded more than ever before, WHY we celebrate this time of year - to honor the greatest gift in history - “The Birth of a King.” 

by Tommee Profitt

Author, Write My Story - A Songwriter’s Journey Written by Denae Joy

Have you ever sat down to write something - a book report, a poem, a song - and felt totally uninspired? Most of us have felt that way many times. We have those wonderful moments when creativity is flowing through our veins, and then we have those other moments when it just isn’t there. Sometimes we look at what we’ve written, then crumple it up and throw it away, deeming it junk. How many of us have stopped to think of our lives as a work of art in progress: a book, or a song, that is still being composed? Every day we are adding another phrase, another sentence, another paragraph. How many of us have looked back at the day we just lived or the decision we just made and thought, “Well, that was stupid.” It happens! It especially happens when we try to write our story without God’s help. In Jeremiah 10:23, the prophet said, “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” We’re human, and we don’t know what the future holds. We’re living out our story without knowing its outcome. That’s why we need help - help from Someone Who sees not only where we are, but also sees every moment of our past and our future.

It was while thinking on these things that I began to feel an urge to write a song called, Author, Write My Story. It took a while (didn’t all come in one burst of inspiration!), but finally came together. I was able to record it earlier this year. More than just a lyric, this song has become my heartbeat. I have a sign with the words hanging in my room. I speak them to God when I pray. I felt this song as I wrote it, and it taught me some very important lessons. In fact, it’s still teaching me.

“Born into this world, my life a book filled with empty pages...” We all come into this world with a clean canvas. The future is an endless road before us, our stories are not yet written.

“As I began to live, the void was filled with written lines and phrases...” As we grow, we begin filling the pages with our story. Tales of carefree childhood and echoes of laughter punctuate those early chapters. But also, the general direction of our life begins to take shape. The Bible says that “Even a child is known by his doings...” Prov 20:11. These are the formative years - our character and personality begin to speak to others of who we really are.

“But, it didn’t take that long to see that it would never be in me to write a story beautiful and true. Mistakes were made and lines scratched out, there were things I could not figure out...” Because we are born with the fallen nature of Adam, it doesn’t take long for us to start messing up. The problem is that unlike an article or a poem, you can’t press backspace 32 times and erase the wrong decisions, or words, or attitudes. This is real life, happening in real time, and there’s no going back for re-dos. Sounds kind of depressing, right? Well, for a lot of people, life is depressing. They feel in over their heads. Their story is not what they wanted it to be. But, we were never meant to write this on our own.

This song applies to more than just those who are broken and in a messed up place in their lives. I’m a preacher’s kid. I’m known as a good girl who loves God. And I do! But, I still don’t have the ability to write my life’s story. I’ve made mistakes, made decisions based on my own understanding, stressed about things I had no power to control or change. But, around the time of the writing of this song, a realization began to take shape in my mind: if I want my life to be beautiful, I’m going to have to climb to a higher place of trust in God. I can’t do this on my own. I don’t have the understanding or the expertise to write the story of my life. Oh, but, here is the good part: I have a Friend!

“’Til I began anew, and gave the pen to You...” Every single one of us has the option to ask for help in the writing of our story. You see, the One Who made us truly knows us. He sees where we’re at, and where we’re going. He sees the messes and mistakes, and only He knows how to bring beauty out of the ashes. He sees our confusion, wondering why things happen the way they do. He sees our frustrations at not knowing how things will unfold, or when the answers to our prayers will be provided. He knows it all - His understanding and power are infinite. He has a plan. And the best part is, He loves us! Everything

He does is for our good. He has only our best intentions in mind, and He proved it once and for all when He allowed rusty spikes to be driven into His sinless hands.

He alone can turn our stories into something beautiful...and He wants to. Oh, how He wants to! We make the smartest decision of our lives when we let go, and in sweet surrender, give God the pen.

“Author, write my story for Your glory, for Your good. May it be a testimony to a world in need of You. You alone see beginning to the end. Let every line and every chapter be according to Your plan. I know You love me, so write my story with Your nail-scarred hand.”

-Denae Joy

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

1995 in Christian Music: 25 Albums 25 Years Later


I might be weirder than I thought you guys. I keep asking people what their favorite year is, and mostly I get blank stares. Is this not a thing? Do people not have a favorite year? Well, I do...and it’s highly likely that as a deeply nostalgia person who has loved music as long as he can remember that music may be the culprit. So here goes... another 90s music post. And yes, this was one of my formative years...let’s go all the way back to 1995. Also, in case you enjoy this post check out a few others like it here: 100 Greatest Christian Albums of the 90s, 100 Greatest Albums of Christian Music 1969-2019 Full List!!!, Every dc Talk Song Ranked

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I was fourteen, barely into my music collecting years and all of the sudden my CCM pop listening palate expanded rapidly. Like many a teen in the 90s it was two particular albums that were largely responsible for that. They along with twenty-three albums are present on this list on what I am calling my overall favorite year in Christian music...1995. Hard to believe these are all celebrating 25 years this year, but here we are and boy do I feel old! Some have stood up better than others as far as sounding dated to their time but I’d be willing to hold these twenty-five up to almost any other year. I think it would stand toe-to-toe with any other contender. So without further delay here is a ranked list (because I must) of what I believe to be the strongest year in Christian music during the 90s, if not it’s entire history. But that’s a blog for another we go!


25. Super Deluxe - Morella’s Forest

Never listened to this one at the time but it’s got a high reputation. Noise pop musically in the vein of Starflyer 59.


24. Arms Around the World - Code of Ethics

Perhaps the most dated sound of the bunch I also first heard these guys via radio, and it was probably the pop song “Well Done.”


23. Self-Titled - Tony Vincent

Radio played the heck out of “Out of My Hands” and “Simple Things” and they were my introduction to Vincent. I would later love his song “One Deed” as a top song of the decade.


22. No Doubt - Petra

Not much of a Petra fan, but I think this album when I think of them. “Right Place” and “No Doubt” are my go-to tunes.


21. Brothers Keeper - Rich Mullins

Title track and “Let Mercy Lead” are my favorites though “Quoting Deuteronomy To The Devil” is up there too.


20. Strip Cycle - Michael Knott

I’ve listened to this one a few times due to its reputation but it hasn’t clicked with me yet. Need to revisit.


19. Happily Ever After - Hoi Polloi

Aggressive and moody female rock.


18. Unplugged - The Kry

The Kry was a truly underrated band in my opinion. This live and unplugged album is one of the few exceptions to my no live albums rule.


17. Extra*Ordinary - Johnny Q. Public

Strong alt rock with the standout track “Body Be” the most well-known of the tracklist.


16. I’ll Lead You Home - Michael W. Smith

I still know the words to most of these and love to sing along at the top of my lungs.


15. Love Education - Jon Gibson

Love this dude’s voice, this is probably my overall favorite of his non-hits albums. Solid from top-to-bottom blue-Eyed Soul.


14. Lonely HouseGrammatrain

Grungy Rock with growling baritone vocals from Pete Stewart. Excellent.


13. The Spark - Plankeye

College Alt-Rock with top notch lyrics.


12. Perfecta - Adam Again

Many would argue this as their best, and though I still think that album is Dig, this one is top-notch as well.


11. Self-Titled - Big Tent Revival

A bit of storytelling, country, pop/rock, ballads, alternative. All well done.


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10. Delusions of Grandeur - Fleming & John

Man, that voice! “I’m Not Afraid” is worth inclusion alone, but listen to the whole album for sure. Vocally operatic and musically alt/rock at its finest.


9. Blue Belly Sky - The Waiting

Quirky, charming pop/rock that should have been huge. “Look at Me” is a top 25 song of the 90s Christian Music scene if you ask me.


8. Gold - Starflyer 59

Its predecessor has a bigger reputation but I prefer Gold as an entire album. Hazy, Shoe-gaze rock.


7. Way Before The Flood - Blackeyed Sceva

If you love 90s alt/rock like I do then this one is a must. Lyrically challenging and willing to go places much of CCM in the era was not.


6. Love Is Against The Grain - Dimestore Prophets

Speaking of terrific alt/rock with top notch lyrics here’s another lesser known band and album of the era that should have gotten more love.


5. Teenage Politics - MxPx

Iconic punk rock. Fast, fun, and loud.


4. Mercury - The Prayer Chain

As weird of an album as you’ll find in the alt/rock “Chrindie” music scene, this one lives up to its reputation as one of the finest bands and albums that the more underground Christian music of the decade has to offer


3. This Beautiful Mess - Sixpence None The Richer

An album of contrasts I can hardly ever decide if I love this Sixpence album more than their self-titled. This one is raw and rough musically in all the right ways, and contrasted by Leigh’s angelic lilting voice. “Wishing A Room Somewhere” is their best song and it’s here.


2. Self-Titled - Jars of Clay

First in my heart, but second on this list of a incomparable year in CCM. Acoustic-based alt/rock with stirring string sections and poetic lyrics.


1. Jesus Freak - Dctalk

Buck it all you want, but this album cannot be equaled in its impact on’s simply the best. Hit singles galore from the supergroup still on “intermission.”


What a year right?! Happy 25th to some of my all-time favorite albums in my all-time favorite year! What about you...what’s your favorite 1995 album? Why do you love it? Leave a comment and share if you think you know someone who’d enjoy the read!

Also, check out my other 90s Christian Music related posts for further reading here: Every Jars of Clay Song Ranked, 100 Greatest Christian Albums of the 90s, Every PFR Song Ranked

Happy listening friends! – Josh Balogh

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Thursday, October 1, 2020

Believe Again: From Salesman to Worship Album Producer by Gus Nunes

What happens when God calls you to quit your job, sell what you have, and begin on a new journey making an album with Him?

… Let’s rewind.

Being the son of a Pastor, I’ve been playing music in the church since I was 3 years old. At 16, I studied music technology in Sixth Form and University but always felt that I wasn’t the best. Recording and producing my own music felt like an unachievable and distant dream.

After getting married, I continued to lead music in the church but outside of it, I was working as a salesman in a successful job. My wife and I had our own place, work provided me with new cars, and we could enjoy different luxuries. For years, I focused on working and spending time with the woman I love. Recording music was something that I no longer had the time or energy for.

Little did I know that God had other plans.

In February last year, God told me and my wife, Barbara to quit our jobs and give away what we had because He had something else planned for us. He didn’t tell us what but He did tell us where – California.  So after prayer and confirmation, getting a three-month visa and tickets to LAX, we found ourselves living in LA. We found a local church and started to help with outreach, events, and anything else that was needed. He did a lot with us during our time there and used it to develop our character.

After the three months were up, we returned to England keen to know from God what was next. While we were waiting, I decided to reach out to a friend of mine who is a talented songwriter/musician about recording his song. I asked him if we could record ‘Faithful Friend’ in the church studio as I was a big fan of the song. Now that I had the time, I was happy to use some of my music tech knowledge to record a simple guitar track and video.

Once we released the song, I concluded that if God still hadn’t spoken about what to do, I will continue to make more music. Six years ago, I wrote ‘Hear My Devotion’ and I knew we had more songs. I called together the worship team and we wrote ‘Saved Me From Myself’. What was supposed to be a simple guitar recording was turning into a full production album.

The whole time, I was keeping an open mind in case God told me to get a job. I wanted to be obedient and as a married man, I felt the pressure to provide for my family.

Sometimes, I think of the Holy Spirit like a sat nav. When I am headed in the right direction, the sat nav doesn’t say anything. It’s only when I need to take a turn or go another way that I believe God will direct. So, I continued to make the album.

One year and ten incredible tracks later, the album Believe Again by Sunrise Worship has been released.

I now realise that God gave me an opportunity that I had never had before. I always wanted to record music but time and energy was always my excuse. During this time, God provided for us in unimaginable ways. While working on the album, He blessed my wife with an amazing job, we were able to pay rent and get a car.

Believe Again is an album from God to God.

All of the songs are different points of a journey walking with Christ. If your love is growing cold or if you are looking for love and hope – it’s for you. We hope that when people listen to it, they will experience God in the same way that we did.

I had every excuse but God created a way. I have now spent the past year without an income and every penny we earn goes straight back into promotion.

 I don’t know what is next (maybe another album!), but what I do know is that I will continue to listen for His instruction and be obedient. There is no journey like a journey with God leading you.

“Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” – Matthew 19:26

Believe Again is available on all streaming platforms here. To keep up with the latest news and releases, please follow us on Instagram or visit our website.

By Gus Nunes

Friday, September 18, 2020

All of the Earth is Yours by Shaylee Simeone


There’s something really comforting to me about the mystery of God. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it. It’s also easy for our humanity to want to conquer that mystery, to fully wrap our minds around, understand it. As generations of people continue to evolve, our thirst for knowledge only grows, and our access to information broadens significantly as well. And I get that, I really do.  It feels good to know things, it gives us a sense of confidence and importance. But for me, I love the fact that I can’t fully explain God. I can’t even perfectly picture him in all his glory. It’s like the ocean, for example. There are depths that we still can’t reach, no matter how fancy the equipment. She is too vast, so much so that there are new creatures being discovered every day. I love that and I hope man never fully conquers her, just like we will never fully be able to grasp everything about who God is. And to me, the most amazing part of all that is the fact that this God, who’s arms shaped the mountains, wraps those very arms around us. He is powerful enough to create and orchestrate life itself, yet kind enough to bend down low and care for his people.

I wrote the song, “All of the Earth is Yours”, out of Psalm 24:

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,

    the world, and all who live in it;

for he founded it on the seas

    and established it on the waters. 

Who is this God, the creator, the artist of the skies? And who are we, that he would be gracious enough to care for us?  I find a deep peace in recognizing my smallness and leaning into this mystery, because one of the greatest of them is the fact that he would sacrifice so much and continue to love a people who are constantly messing things up. And I mean, we really mess things up! I do, at least.

And when I look at the rest of Psalm 24...

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?

    Who may stand in his holy place?

4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,

    who does not trust in an idol

    or swear by a false god.

5 They will receive blessing from the Lord

    and vindication from God their Savior.

6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,

    who seek your face, God of Jacob.

...this feels like our response to all of that, to the God who holds it all. I read that and I think how much I want to be a part of a generation that is known for seeking after the Lord, who keeps diving deeper into the mystery while being humble enough to know there is no end to it.  A generation that has clean hands that cling to grace, that speaks boldly the name of Jesus and against falsehood, one who holds to the truth of God’s Word and builds up his church in a really, really loud world. Because another great paradox is that as time keeps barreling forward and the world keeps constantly changing, God does not. He stays exactly the same. He isn’t intimidated by the chaos of this fallen world, and he tells us not to be surprised by it. So, that is my hope for this song, that it urges believers to find comfort in the bigness of God, to remember that he cares deeply for his children, and for it to be a prayer for this generation of the church to continue to strengthen as the world spins madly on.  

God, you are so much grander than we can even attempt to fathom. Even so, thank you for caring for us. Thank you for not giving up on us. Thank you for creating the complexity of the human mind, yet still remaining a mystery to it.  Help us lean peacefully into that. And may we be a generation that brings you glory and makes you proud, may we be worthy to ascend your mountains to glory and one day stand in your presence.

-Shaylee Simeone 

Friday, August 28, 2020

Q&A with Hillsong Young & Free


Q&A with Hillsong Young & Free


1.     ALL OF MY BEST FRIENDS is the new album title. Tell us about the meaning behind it. (Melodie Mezieres-Wagner)

All of My Best Friends is a project born out of collaboration, unity and seeking to express the raw, bright-eyed passion of our youth group. Capturing the uninhibited feeling of discovering the love of Jesus. The album is a reminder that we are all connected to each other, and when we approach our faith knowing this, we are better models of Jesus.


2.     Tell us about the album’s focus track single, "Best Friends." Where did the idea or concept of the song come from, and what is the key take-away message for listeners? (Karina Savage)


When we wrote “Best Friends,” we already had over 50 demos that the team had written collectively. We were looking for something outside the box. We started playing some chords and decided to write a brutish punk rock song, cause why not? We didn’t think it would ever be used on the album. Josh Grimmet had the original idea around “Best Friends” and it just grew from there. There’s so much young people deal with when it comes to social media and we know that they are done with the superficial hunger for truth. That’s definitely the biggest takeaway, that society can often try to push things on us as young people, but the real truth comes from God.


3.     What was the significance to you to be able to capture live recordings on the album during Summer Camp in Sydney Australia? What was that experience like? (Alex Epa Iosefa)


Summer camps have been monumental since I was 12 years old coming into our church. The time where I experienced God in a radical way, put time aside to focus on my relationship with the Lord, felt called for the first time, and created long lasting memories. So for me, letting the world in on experiencing our youth ministry go after God in its most raw elements, felt like a no brainer. And, it didn’t disappoint! It felt raw, authentic, fresh - a real stake in the ground for our youth ministry and songs that we needed for a time like this.


4.     What are some of your favorite songs on the compilation? Why? (Jack McGrath)


This is a super tough question to answer. I would have to say, “World Outside Your Window,” “Uncomplicated” and “Glimpse.” It’s still so crazy to me how these songs were recorded back in January, yet, the message behind them is so needed for what the world is going through right now. “Uncomplicated” takes you right back to the essence of the Gospel, and what was captured on the night we recorded it was so special. “Glimpse” is just a really fun song…easy to listen to, and the lyrics are so powerful.


5.     Hillsong’s music has influenced millions of people around the globe. What type of weight does this responsibility bear on Y&F and how has it influenced what you do?

(Melodie Mezieres-Wagner)

Wow! SO much…Ha-ha. It’s a whole lot of responsibility and we pray that we never take it for granted. To think that our church has been reaching people with timeless songs of worship since before some of us could talk is seriously mind blowing. We have this old saying, “we stand on the shoulders of giants.” It may sound cliché but it’s true. We have incredible spiritual giants that have gone before us and we feel so grateful that we get to be beneficiaries of what was pioneered all those years ago. So, with that epic legacy comes a certain weight of responsibility on us. Before we started writing for this album, I think we felt it the most. We had questions like...‘what if the songs don’t come?’ and ‘what if we think they’re awesome but they fall flat when we introduce them at youth?’ There were a lot of what ifs. And, because we’re human and we’re creatives, the process of diving into the deep end of a new project was daunting. But, we knew we ultimately had to surrender that humanity and creativity in trust to God, believing that He would take our worship and breathe on it anew.


6.     How do you hope your music impacts this generation as young artists creating for young people? (Melodie Mezieres-Wagner)

I think our greatest hope for our music is that young people, whatever their background, circumstance or belief, would know that there is a purpose for their life. That there is more to life than what we see and that they’re not alone and never have been. Being a young person in the 21st century isn’t easy and it’s becoming increasingly more complicated to navigate the world around us. We pray that the music we make and the example of our lives would encourage and uplift young people everywhere.

7.     Musically, how does ALL OF MY BEST FRIENDS differ from prior Y&F releases? (Melodie Mezieres-Wagner)

In making this album, we wanted to be intentional with bringing something new that was still ‘us.’ We decided to move away from the heavy electronic influences that we’re known for, but still include the best parts of all the sonic genres - new and old that we love as a band. On this record, you’ll hear more hero-ing of instruments, in particular electric guitar doing the heavy lifting on songs like “Best Friends,” “Never Have I Ever” and “Indescribable”. Also, we have voices on songs that haven’t been heard on previous releases. You’ll hear Josh Grimmett from Hillsong London who brought a real freshness to the collaboration space and sings the lead on “World Outside Your Window,” a driving anthem with UK pop influences. We find with more writers in the writing process, the more varied genres we’re inspired from. On All of My Best Friends, you’ll hear inspiration from punk rock, 2000’s dance, Caribbean beats, country, gospel and R’n’B. We’re really proud to present our interpretation of what pop in 2020 sounds like.


8.     Community and connection look a bit different in our world right now in light of the recent pandemic. What are some ways that you hope Y&F’s music can bring people together, particularly the youth? (Melodie Mezieres-Wagner)

It’s incredible how music can bring people together. We experienced that in a really special way on the night of the recording. And as much as we miss being together in a room singing all at once and with no real way of replicating that digitally, I think we’ve needed to remind ourselves that the power of the music isn’t in the gathering or even in the singing but it’s in people being unified, with one heart, one mind, one focus - Jesus. It’s when we’re all moving toward the one who created us, and in that pursuit, where whatever we’re facing comes into perspective. We hope with the purest intentions that our music can be a vehicle to align us again, with what really matters in this season.


9.     What are some unique and creative ways Y&F is staying engaged with teens/young adults during these times? (Melodie Mezieres-Wagner)

It’s been a process of innovating and thinking outside the box for sure. We’ve pioneered an online youth program that streams live on air every Friday night from Sydney, Australia. We stream praise and worship, have fun segments, special guests, and share around the Bible all while interacting with a live chat audience. Each week, we have people joining in from all around the world and have even been able to equip other youth ministries with a program to tune into with their young people. It was overwhelming at first to think how we would pull it off but there’s a dedicated team behind the scenes making it come to life and we are seeing the fruit of it in young people finding real community.


10.  Talk about how important it is to cultivate a space, especially with youth/young adults, where everyone belongs. (Melodie Mezieres-Wagner)

Yes, such a great question. It’s sounds so simple and obvious, but no one wants to be in an environment where they aren’t welcome and no one can fulfil their full potential if they aren’t loved, included and inspired. For all of us in Y&F, we’re doing what we do today because we found family in a youth ministry that loved and championed us - uniquely. The fact that we come from all different backgrounds and have different gifts, personalities and ways of looking at the world, is testament to the type of space that was created for us to thrive and find belonging. There’s sometimes a danger in wanting to reach as many people as possible and wanting to be as inclusive as possible in that we can try the one-size fits all approach to ministering. But I think valuing every person for who they are and calling out the potential that lies within them will never lead us astray.


11.  Why do you believe worship has become one of the most popular types of music (in and outside of the church today), and how is Y&F reinventing the genre? (Melodie Mezieres-Wagner)

As young people part of a youth ministry, one thing we’ve noticed is that more and more people are open and curious about spirituality. By looking at what Kanye West has created with Sunday Service and other celebrities like Justin Bieber expressing his faith publicly by getting baptised and sharing it with his following, there’s seems to be a kind of shift happening in our culture where all kinds of people are seeking out what it means to be a part of something bigger than themselves. We can’t speak for worship music as a whole, but for us, we think people are gravitating towards the message of Jesus either consciously or unconsciously because there’s really no substitute for the presence of God and at the very least, it makes them feel good. Young & Free has always been about reaching young people with music that we’d be proud to put on in the car and show our friends, so there’s a responsibility we feel to bring a new expression to what traditional worship music sounds like. And so that looks like taking risks and trying things no one else has attempted. The lyrics of “Best Friends” are a great example of us exploring to the very ends of what worship music sounds like, and that’s a really exciting place to find ourselves in.


12.  What’s your vision for ALL OF MY BEST FRIENDS and what do you hope it brings to those who hear it? (Melodie Mezieres-Wagner)

Our hope and prayer for this album is that even though we are going through such an unprecedented time that these songs would give young people words and prayers when they may not know exactly what to say. We pray that these songs would be an encouragement through hard times. These songs were written far before the crazy times that we’re going through right now, but we truly believe that these lyrics were directed by God.

13.  Is there anything else you want listeners to know about the upcoming album and other plans on the horizon for Y&F? (Laura Toggs)

We never could have imagined the turn of events that would follow the recording of this album and yet it is full of relevant songs that bring joy and perspective in the midst of uncertain times. I am so proud of that. Y&F will continue to inspire people towards hope in Jesus and create anthems that young people everywhere can run with. Hopefully we will be able to tour soon but we’ll just take it as it comes.


GRAMMY® nominated Hillsong Young & Free’s fourth career album “ALL OF MY BEST FRIENDS” is available worldwide today. The new compilation features 20 newly-penned songs (13 live performance tracks and seven studio recordings), including the group’s breakout single “Best Friends” which peaked at #1 on the Hot AC chart and remains the highest audio debut of any Hillsong track with more than 7.8 MILLION global streams.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

You Hold the World / Lockdown LP by Olly Knight


My name is Olly Knight, I'm a worship leader and songwriter based in Canterbury, Kent. Lockdown started in March and all my music work at conferences and photography work just vanished.

I started worshipping, singing and writing songs like never before! I’d write a new song pretty much every day.

At the same time I also started something on Facebook Live called “Come and Sing with me” I’d lead worship on weekday mornings and many people were gathering to worship online with me. Lots of people gave to me and my family to support us financially through the lockdown too.

At this same time my friends Jonny, Steve and Tom had lost all their work in the music industry because of the pandemic and I wanted to bless my friends as I'd been blessed myself. I decided to record an album of the songs I'd written in lockdown and employ the three of them to work on the album with me. We launched a Kickstarter campaign for people to pledge money towards the album. We set a target of 30 days to raise £4500. Within 14 hours we'd reached that target! I said if we got to £10,000 by the end of the 30 days I’d do an Irish dance on Facebook Live (thinking we’d never make it to that target) It turns out we got to £10,300… (I was sore for a few days afterwards). We recorded and mixed the album in June, got it mastered in July and then on 14th August 2020 “You Hold the World / Lockdown LP” was released to the world!

One of the hardest things during lockdown has been not being able to gather to sing together with other believers. There are a couple of songs on the album that center around this theme. My prayer is that God would minister to people through these songs and despite us not being able to meet together to sing HIS CHURCH WOULD STILL BE SINGING in their homes.

One of the things I've been wanting to sing about a lot and it comes up again and again on the album is the return of Jesus and how our hope is in Him returning to remake the earth and that we'll dwell with him forever free from disease, sin and sadness. My prayer is that people who don’t know Jesus would hear the album, desire that future hope that Jesus offers and begin a journey of following Him!

This album has been an amazing adventure! I hope it encourages you as you listen to it!

-Olly Knight


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Victor by Jasmine Higgins of Life UNLTD


As I reflect back on the day where our first piece of “not so good news” was delivered to us, I am reminded just how far God has brought myself and my family on our journey and truly how good God is and continues to be to us.

Some may speak of our journey as one of healing and restoration, however, I see it more as one of growth and intimacy with Jesus. Jesus is always with us and His desire for us in the trials and triumphs is that we would not only draw close to Him, but that we would expect to feel His presence and His power at work in our lives!

In June 2017, my husband Matt was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The calmness and peace that Matt delivered the news to me with was almost unbelievable and could only have come from Jesus. 

We prayed for him continuously and believed God for a miracle. We praised Him and cried out to Him. My husband wasn’t healed miraculously from the cancer, but God worked through our doctors. He had half of his thyroid removed and didn't require any further treatment. Praise God!

In March 2018, we were expecting our 2nd child. The pregnancy was tracking along perfectly until we received news at our 20 week scan that our little boy may have down syndrome and that I would need to undergo further testing to find out more.

We believe that children are a gift from God and we decided that regardless of our son's “medical discoveries” that we would praise Him for the miracle of a child!

To be completely honest and vulnerable, I was terrified. I felt initial sadness and loss of what might be a “conventional” childhood for my boy. I was afraid of how people would perceive me and my family and I was overwhelmed with insecurity and fear. Some days, I felt as though I couldn’t breathe.

It’s okay to experience these emotions, but it’s not God’s plan for us to stay there. 

My husband spoke the name Josiah over our boy. Josiah means “The Lord has healed”. We spoke healing, life and victory over him. We began to declare the victory of Jesus over our little boy. 

After an advanced test at our hospital we received news that Josiah was well and did not have down syndrome. We praised God for answered prayer!

Then, in April 2018, after experiencing debilitating pain in my leg whilst still pregnant, I was told that it was due to a tumour growing in my upper thigh. Unfortunately, my first response was not faith in this moment. It was fear and sadness. I reached out to friends and family and prayed that Jesus would help hold my head up and give me strength. 

I received this scripture from one of my pastors during this time...

“Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel. But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!” - 2 Chronicles 20:15-17

Although I felt afraid and unsure of what the future held, I also knew that God was in this with me. That He is victorious and good! I began to write down what God was speaking to me about. I couldn’t move much from the pain of the tumour but I was able to sing, write and declare the victory of Jesus. And that’s where the song “The Victor” started. 

I received miraculous news in August 2018 that the tumour in my leg had dissipated without explanation. What felt like the scariest and most out of control 18 months of my life, I now reflect on being the season that I heard from God the most. It is the closest and most aware I have been of His presence and I am so thankful and grateful for his whispered words to me in my weakness. 

Jesus is loving, patient, kind, generous and close. He is always available and always willing to speak victory over our lives. We don’t go through trials alone and we don’t face challenges without Jesus being right beside us. 

I pray that wherever you are in your walk today, whether you're standing on the mountain top or in the deepest valley, that God would be real to you and that you would feel his presence and believe His victory over you. 

Fix your eyes on hope and stand and watch as your SAVIOR is the VICTOR!

Jasmine Higgins


Life UNLTD's new single "The Victor (Live)" is available now. The single was released as a part of their latest EP with 4 songs from their debut live album, coming September 2020. Life UNLTD seeks to write songs that reflect the heartbeat of the Church, and exalt the name of Jesus and His great love. You can listen to their music through all major music platforms.


Saturday, August 1, 2020

'Abide in Me' by Andrew Marcus


During the COVID-19 pandemic we have constantly been encouraged to socially distance ourselves from family, friends and loved ones. We’ve been reminded with signs entering any store or restaurant, we’ve seen illustrations all over the ground with arrows pointing us to the appropriate direction of traffic flow, and I’ve even seen illustrations of eagles and bears in park entrances showing wingspans and lengths reiterating the fact that we must stay 6 feet apart. I recently went on a nice walk with my family and on one particularly narrow trail, it suddenly turned into a one way path to avoid breaking this rule we’ve been reminded of over and over again for months. In the midst of these constant reminders, God has been reminding me of something as well.

As we continue to socially distance ourselves from others, God continues to do the opposite. He draws near.

God draws near to us daily, and it is up to us to either distance ourselves, or draw near to Him. In John 15, we see what happens in our lives when we abide in Jesus, and we see what happens when we don’t.

John 15:1-12
The Vine and the Branches

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

So what happens when we do not abide in Jesus?

Jesus says in verse 6 that, “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers, and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”

During the busyness of prepping for Easter services last year, this passage of Scripture became more real to me than ever before. After one of our pastors shared this exact passage during our week of prayer leading up to Easter, it hit me that night as I lay in bed restless, that I have not been abiding in Christ. This tends to happen naturally every Easter and Christmas if I am not careful. With the relentless pursuit of organizing services, teams, songs, rehearsals and overseeing how we will visually share the Gospel, I quickly find myself feeling like a branch that is withering away. I get so bombarded with the ‘to do list’ that I fail to observe and acknowledge the fact that Christ is present with me and drawing near to me in the midst of the chaos.

When we do not abide in Christ, we wither away and it becomes evident to not only us but everyone around us that we have not been receiving the proper nourishment we need to bear fruit.

After hours of trying to fall asleep that night, I got out of bed and went downstairs to pray (with the accompaniment of my guitar). It was in that moment where I heard the song “Abide in Me” sung over me. Now, I am very reluctant to say that God gave me this song and that I heard him sing it over me. I’ve had many artists tell me God gave them songs and when I listened to them my first response was, “well you better give it back.” “Maybe he wasn’t finished writing it?” Or quite honestly, “Don’t you dare blame God for this!” All that being said, I cling to Zephaniah 3:17 that declares that God is present, that he quiets me with his love and that he “rejoices over me with singing.”

That night I feel like I heard the song He was singing over me. In that moment my soul was realigned, and I found myself exactly where I needed to be: at His feet.

What does it look like to abide in Jesus?

In verse 10, we get a glimpse of what this looks like. Jesus says, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” What are the commandments Jesus is referring to in this moment?

In Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

I believe that first commandment is the foundation of the second. When we love God with all our hearts, souls and our minds, that overflows into loving our neighbours as ourselves. Everything stems from this love. When we love God, we observe his leading, acknowledge his presence and obey his commands.

What happens in us and through us when we abide in Jesus?

We see the fruit of love displayed in our lives. This fruit is a testimony to the world around us that we are connected to the Vine.

Love is not the only fruit that grows on us as simple branches when we are connected to the Vine. Jesus says in verse 12, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” So we also receive Joy! Not just a temporary joy, a complete joy!

Thinking about the love and joy we receive when we are connected to the Vine makes me think of Galatians 5:22 where the apostle Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Without being connected to the Vine, we have no nourishment to bear fruit.

I encourage you today wherever you are at to realign your heart to His. I pray you can have a moment just sitting at his feet. Not doing anything, just being. Acknowledge that he is present with you in whatever situation you find yourself. Observe the reality that he has led you to this place and that he will continue to lead you to the next place he has in store for you. Obey his command to love Him and love your neighbour as yourself.

So, as we keep hearing that we must stay 6 feet away from those outside our bubbles, know that Jesus is in your bubble, drawing you closer and closer to Himself. Social distancing does not apply to the Lord, so rest at His feet and Abide in Him today.

-- Andrew Marcus


Andrew Marcus's new single "Abide in Me" is available now. With six critically acclaimed recordings to his credit, including his BEC RECORDINGS debut album Constant featuring writing and vocal collaborations with Leeland and Paul Baloche, Marcus continues to write powerful prayers to encourage his local church community in Canada.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Josh Balogh's 100 Greatest Christian Albums of the 00s

This is the decade where my musical taste continued to grow and finally find its sweet spot. The first half of the decade coincided with my college years, and I have many fond memories attached to many of these albums because of it. The second half held the first five years of marriage, fatherhood, and the financial struggles of a young family. Because I listened to such a wider variety of songs as the CCM genre continued to expand, I chose to limit the times a band/artist could show up on this list to two. With the 90s list and the10s list, I had no such rules, but it seemed necessary for this decade to include as many of the greats as possible. In other words, though I may pick the “wrong” album by a band or artist, according to some, I at least tried to make sure they were represented.

Again, this list as the two preceding it is a bit of a hybrid, in that I tried to be as objective as possible to include albums that are widely considered great though it may not be my personal taste. There are 11 such albums present and bonus points to those that can pick them out. Also, the ranking was tremendously difficult, nay impossible so don’t get too hung up on where an album placed, especially anything outside of the top 40. I think they’re all great or I wouldn’t have included them. Some will be farther down the list because I either hadn’t heard them at (rare, maybe 3-5 albums), or had spent less time with them (about 10-15 albums). The higher the rank, the more my personal enjoyment, especially once we get closer to the top 25.

Another question that may come up is the “is such and such a Christian band/artist?” or “why would x be on this Christian list?” One of the things that I love about Christian music in the 00s is that the age-old question of what applies as “Christian” music continued to expand. Personally, I think it’s silly to define an entire genre on the lyrical content alone, but for better or worse that has been the history of CCM. For this list, I chose to include a few artists who are confirmed Christians though their musical output was beyond the borders of traditional CCM. No that doesn’t include U2, but it may include a few surprises.

If you missed the 90s and 10s lists I’ve already posted they can be found here: 100 Greatest Christian Albums of the 90s and here:100 Best Albums of the 2010s, and as always I’d love to hear from you on your favorites, as well as where you think I missed it, or maybe even nailed it.

Here we go!

~~ Josh Balogh

  1. Sanctus Real – Fight The Tide (2004)

Crunchy guitar-based pop/rock. Also worth mentioned that their Face Of Love album is also top-notch.

  1. Out Of Eden – This Is Your Life (2002)

This R&B/Pop sister group was criminally ignored by the radio. I feel like they were about ten years ahead of their time, and it’s a shame they weren’t bigger.

  1. Jeremy Camp – Stay (2002)

Camp burst onto the scene with multiple hit singles with songs like, “Understand,” “Right Here” “Walk By Faith,” “I Still Believe,” and “Take My Life.” Each one a solid pop tune directing praise to God even amid personal tragedy.

  1. Brandon Heath – What if We (2008)

Following up “I’m Not Who I Was” was going to be tough but Heath was up to the task with his best overall album spawning smash hits “Give Me Your Eyes” and “Wait And See.”

  1. Big Daddy Weave – One And Only (2002)

I love the saxophone that Big Daddy Weave features highly on this album. “In Christ,” “Friend Like You,” “Neighborhoods,” and “Audience Of One” are the cream of the crop.

  1. Nicole Nordeman – This Mystery (2000)

Deep and thought-provoking piano-pop at its finest. “Every Season” is an absolute gem and should make every list of greatest CCM songs in the 00s.

  1. Copeland – Eat, Sleep, Repeat (2006)

Whispery, reflective indie-rock.

  1. Showbread – No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical (2004)

A Tooth & Nail band, the vocal-shredding singer is an acquired taste. This is weird rock n’ roll with “Mouth Like A Magazine” being my favorite overall tune.

  1. Chris Tomlin – Arriving (2004)

Perhaps the quintennial worship release of the decade, Arriving is worthy of inclusion on this list due to “How Great Is Our God” alone.

  1. Francesca Battistelli – My Paper Heart (2008)

A radio-ready pop album if there ever was one, literally every song could have been released as a single, and the ones that were shot of the charts.

  1. The Cross Movement – Higher Definition (2004)

I did go through a brief rap period, (as we are all wont to do) and this is one of the ones that has stuck with me.

  1. Steven Curtis Chapman – Beauty Will Rise (2009)

A hard album to listen to, but an important one. His grief is palpable, but it isn’t without hope.

  1. All Star United – Love & Radiation (2007)

Exactly ten years after their debut we get another euro-pop/rock gem replete with wit and sarcasm. Excellence.

  1. Jennifer Knapp – The Way I Am (2001)

Best girl-with-guitar album of the decade in my opinion. Soul. Angst. Fantastic guitar playing. It’s all here.

  1. Further Seems Forever – The Moon Is Down (2001)

This emo band had trouble keeping a lead singer, with Chris Carrabba being the first to leave for more mainstream pursuits. Before he left he recorded this soaring debut full of the guitars and angst that are best known of the genre.

  1. John Reuben – Are We There Yet? (2000)

The always goofy, sarcastic, and self-aware John Reuben debuted with this hip-hop classic right out of the gate.

  1. Shawn McDonald – Simply Nothing (2004)

Singer/Songwriter debut with acoustic guitar-based songs and a dash of hip-hop rhythms.

  1. Thousand Foot Krutch – Phenomenon (2003)

Ah yes, TFK. A guilty pleasure perhaps, but this is their most complete album with a very little hint of the rap/rock hybrid of their debut. This is more mature, and spawned their career-defining hit “Rawkfist.”

  1. Tait – Empty (2001)

The first solo album to release from the “intermission” by supergroup dctalk. Joined by Pete Stewart (Grammatrain) and the Chapin brothers, this boasts excellent guitar work and a bevy of solid alt/rock tunes.

  1. The Classic Crime – The Silver Chord (2008)

Raw. Electric guitars. Intense. Dynamic. Mature. This is excellent rock n roll music.

  1. Third Day – Offerings (2000)

The worship craze was soon to take over CCM, but Third Day released one of the better ones before nearly every other artist followed suit.

  1. 38th Parallel – Turn The Tides (2002)

Does 38th Parallel bring to mind Linkin Park? Well yes, in some ways. The angry rap/rock combo is present but these guys set themselves apart with top-shelf harmonies in most of the choruses.

  1. Stacie Orrico – Self-Titled (2003)

There was a major mainstream impact with songs “Stuck” and “There’s Gotta Be More To Life”  and several other songs of pop goodness.

  1. Grits – Art of Translation (2002)

“Ooh Ahh” and “Here We Go” are the cream-of-the-crop, but there are other really strong songs. Overall this is a fantastic follow up to the better Grammatical Revolution.

  1. Hawk Nelson – Letters To The President (2004)

One of my favorite pop/punk albums of all time. High nostalgia factor here.

  1. Mark Schultz – Self-Titled (2000)

A piano man with a handful of catchy, tear-jerking songs. Great debut!

  1. Future of Forestry – Twilight (2007)

Well done melancholic indie-rock.

  1. LetterKills – The Bridge (2004)

Punk-emo rock with some screamed vocals and melodic singing thrown in the mix as well.

  1. MercyMe – All That Is Within Me (2007)

Some would pick their label debut containing smash-hit “I Could Only Imagine,” but this is the better overall album with crunchier guitar moments and their typically upward-directed lyrics.

  1. Adam Watts – Sleeping Fire (2006)

Maybe the best and most prolific songwriter most have never heard of with songwriting credits for Jesse McCartney, Colton Dixon, Jeremy Camp and a host of others. This is an alt/rock gem that all should hear. FYI Watts doesn’t make bad records.

  1. Michael W. Smith – Worship (2001)

I was torn whether to include this one, but sales, popularity, and the fact that this is a well-done worship cover album make it worthy of inclusion.  

  1. Project 86 – Songs To Burn Bridges By (2004)

This album is outside of my typical listening habits, but “The Spy Hunter” is a jam that must be turned up full blast.

  1. Eisley – Room Noises (2006)

With shades of Sixpence singer Leigh Nash in their angelic voices, the DuPree sister-fronted Eisley debuted with this hauntingly beautiful indie-rock album.

  1. Ben Shive – ill Tempered Klavier (2008)

With Beach Boys-inspired harmonies AND melodies this is a singer/songwriter treasure that is not to be missed.

  1. Mxpx – Ever Passing Moment (2000)

As my musical taste was expanding to harder rock, ska, and hip-hop, this pop/punk album was important in my early college years and my ever-developing musical palate.

  1. Emery – The Question (2005)

Not really my cup of tea, but objectively I understand why this rock album and band are highly regarded. Intense screams and melodic vocals play off of each other well creating a palpable tension.

  1. The Afters – I Wish We All Could Win (2005)

These guys had my attention for their first two albums but I lost interest soon after. I return to this pop-drenched debut most often as it is strong all the way through.

  1. Tenth Avenue North – Over & Underneath (2008)

In my mind, TAN never did better than this pop/worship debut. There isn’t any filler and it all sounds fresh with several standout songs “Love Is Here,” “Lift Us Up,” “By Your Side,” and “Beloved” among them.

  1. PFR – Disappear (2001)

An ironic comeback album title if there ever was one, at least we got this terrific pop/rock reunion record before they were gone again.

  1. Luna Halo – Shimmer (2000)

Losing the dynamic rap/rock band Reality Check after one superb album was a tough blow, but out of the ashes, Nathan Barlowe dropped this catchy euro/rock-influenced album. “Aliens” and “Superman” demand your attention right out of the gate, but the whole tracklist is worth a listen.

  1. Caedmon’s Call – Share The Well (2004)

The one where a folk band goes on a mission trip and is changed forever. That’s simplifying it too much, but the world-music influences are all over this diverse album. It was/is an important album in expanding my mind beyond my own little square-footage.

  1. Seabird – Til’ We See The Shore (2008)

Bouncy, rolling piano-led pop. Earworm central here. “Apparitions” is divine.

  1. The Elms – The Chess Hotel (2006)

Snotty, gritty-in-your-face-rock-n-roll at its finest.

  1. Mat Kearney – Nothing Left To Lose (2006)

Soak your acoustic guitar songs in hip-hop and chill.

  1. Five Iron Frenzy – The End Is Near (2003)

How did this album get here?! Cut and paste accident I guess…might as well leave it. Worst album by the worst band ever!

  1. Downhere – Wide-Eyed & Mystified (2006)

In the conversation for the best overall pop/rock album of the decade as far as I’m concerned. All that it tries to do it does well. Dual vocalists that both bring a different strength to well-written and executed pop/rock tunes.

  1. Tobymac – Welcome To Diverse City (2004)

The best overall album from the godfather of Christian music.

  1. Pax217 – Self-Titled (2000)

Reggae influences help this rap/rock group stand apart from others of the era.

  1. Julianna Theory – Emotion Is Dead (2000)

Emo/rock unafraid to slow it down to include dance, harder rock, and piano into the mix.

  1. Remedy Drive – Daylight Is Coming (2008)

Another terrific piano-driven pop/rock masterpiece.


Time for the Top 50!!!

  1. Starflyer 59 – Talking Voice vs. Singing Voice (2005)

A highly regarded pop/rock album from a highly consistent band.

  1. Derek Webb – She Must and Shall Go Free (2003)

A no-holds-barred acoustic guitar-based wake-up call for the church.

  1. Children 18:3 – Self-Titled (2008)

Three siblings formed pop/punk group Children 18:3. This is infectious and bratty in all the right ways, and it’s hard to get these pop/punk songs out of your head after listening.

  1. Jon Foreman – Seasonal EPs (2007-2008)

Ever the prolific songwriter for Switchfoot, these terrific tunes saw the light of day as solo releases. “The Cure For Pain” is my favorite from the Fall disc which is also my overall favorite of the four seasonal EPs.

  1. Sixpence None The Richer – Divine Discontent (2002)

Much more straightforwardly pop than their previous output, this is still high-quality art, doing the sound extremely well.

  1. Lecrae – Rebel (2008)

Leaps and bounds were made on this his third album and he would continue to soar to greater heights.

  1. Downhere – Self-Titled (2001)

Dual singers with contrasting styles, vertically directed lyrics, pop song constructs, and great vocal performances. The ballads really shine on this fantastic album. The trio of “Great Are You,” “Calmer Of The Storm” and “Protest To Praise” still get regular listens to this day.

  1. Phil Wickham – Cannons (2007)

Soaring vocals and worshipful lyrics with the title track, “You’re Beautiful,” and “True Love” being my favorite songs.

  1. Underoath – Define The Great Line (2006)

The Florida based Screamo/Hardcore band’s “defining” album? This is a genre shaking/shaping album just as their prior record They’re Only Chasing Safety before it.

  1. Sara Groves – Tell Me What You Know (2007)

Piano-based singer/songwriter with the deeper things to say in soothing ways.

  1. Earthsuit – Kaleidoscope Superior (2000)

There was nothing else like it in the genre as far I know…reggae-infused rap/rock with some of the best drummings you’ll hear. This was the one-hit-wonder band that launched out MuteMath from the ashes.

  1. Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans (2004)

Lots of banjo and faith musings from an indie darling. I was late to this one, but its great. 

  1. Leeland – Sound Of Melodies (2006)

This young band took the industry by storm in a way very few had done before it. European influenced pop/rock with worship undertones abounding.

  1. Andrew Peterson – Carried Along (2000)

Thinking man’s guy and guitar, Peterson does it better than most. Poetic and charming.

  1. Sandra McCracken – The Builder And The Architect (2006)

Hymn-like song structures and feel to pair with a soothing voice and well-crafted lyrics.

  1. Needtobreathe – The Heat (2007)

This one didn’t leave my car stereo for a full year after I stumbled upon it. All the elements I love Alt/rock goodness, distinctive voice, strong lyrics.

  1. Falling Up – Captiva (2007)

Electronic pop/rock and the first album by Falling Up that I’m totally into up to this point in their career. Greater things to come, but this is a good start.

  1. Kevin Max – Stereotype Be (2001)

Euro/rock drenched offerings, there wasn’t/isn’t anything like it, and it holds up well to this day.

  1. Poor Old Lu – The Waiting Room (2002)

Glossier production than previously grungy funk/rock of the 90s output, this was well received by fans and holds up well years later. The highest highlight is the opener “Revolve.”

  1. Audio A – Lift (2001)

A highlight release from a long-tenured band. They lean more fully into the worship motif of the era, but it’s one of the best at it. “Tremble” and “Ocean Floor” is Audio A classics. 

  1. Family Force 5 – Business up Front, Party In The Back (2006)

Crunk-rock. Danceable. Goofy. So fun to see in concert. The best of their albums.

  1. Skillet – Comatose (2007)

Symphonic rock begging for pyrotechnics, this would be a career-defining album for them. 

  1. Flyleaf – Self-Titled (2005)

Female hard rock with heavy guitars, screams, and clean vocals. “So Sick” is still a jam.

  1. Kevin Max – The Imposter (2005)

Finely crafted pop/rock. His most immediately accessible album in my opinion, and my overall favorite.

  1. Mars iLL – Pro*Pain (2006)

Hip-Hop at its finest. Versatile beats, world-class rapping. 5 Star worthy.

  1. Relient K – Forget And Not Slow Down (2009)

A mature piano/punk break-up record.

  1. Newsboys – Thrive (2002)

The last Newsboys album I loved deeply, this was their best combination of quirky pop/rock tunes and the worship-based ones for which their later albums would be known.

  1. Shane & Shane – Pages (2007)

Passionate journal entry songs calling listeners to praise and worship the King. This acoustic-based duo was a favorite of mine during the 00s.

  1. Caedmon’s Call – Long Line of Leavers (2000)

The acoustic-driven band plugged in a few guitars and experimented with some other instruments on their most diverse album yet. I keep a copy in the car to spin this one regularly.

  1. Anberlin – Never Take Friendship Personal (2005)

Emo-flavored rock with pristine vocals.

  1. David Crowder Band – Church Music (2009)

EDM Worship music? Why yes, the ever-restless DC*B innovates once again pushing worship music into the future.

  1. Switchfoot – Hello Hurricane (2009)

Chock full of defiantly hopeful alt/rock anthems. Top 5 in their deep catalog for me.

  1. Thrice – Vheissu (2005)

My introduction to Thrice, and still my favorite offering of their discography. “Music Box” is creepy and explosive building tension perfectly. The song “Red Sky” swells and soars satisfyingly. Opener “Image Of The Invisible” demands your attention. Superb album.

  1. Lifehouse – No Name Face (2000)

At the time of release, the smash hit song “Hanging By A Moment” was inescapable. However, it’s far from the best song on the album. The ballads, specifically “Breathing” and “Trying” is first-class, and closer “Everything” is hands down the best track.

  1. Jars of Clay – The Long Fall Back To Earth (2009)

Primarily a horizontal relationship album with strong 80s vibes. Took time to grow on me, but now it’s top 5 in their discography. “Safe To Land” is my favorite of many exceptional songs.

  1. P.O.D. – Satellite (2001)

Three killer singles and several other great deep cuts make this album an easy best of decade pick. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard “Alive,” “Boom,” or “Youth Of The Nation” at some point.

  1. Needtobreathe – The Outsiders (2009)

I wore this album out after loving their album The Heat before it. Southern alt/rock with tremendous lyrics spread all around. There’s not a single skippable song present.

  1. Blindside – Silence (2002)

One of the few hard rock albums I return to often. “Caught A Glimpse” and “Pitiful” are my favorites.

  1. Mewithoutyou – Brother, Sister (2006)

The rare band that I listen to for the musicality alone, cause who the heck even knows what the lyrics are about? Brother, Sister is passionate and weird in all the right ways.

  1. Skillet – Collide (2003)

More on the raw side than Comatose, the rage in “Open Wounds” is palpable. “Forsaken is another highlight from an album full of them.

  1. Various Artists – Glory Revealed (2007)

It’s a simple album of acoustic/Americana Scripture songs but it has been a balm to my soul ever since I first happened upon it. It also stand s out as one of my top 5 favorite live shows I’ve ever had to pleasure of attending. “Who Is Like You” is my favorite song, but I love them all.

  1. MuteMath – Self-Titled (2006)

Though not a Christian band per se, this was the phoenix to rise out of the ashes of one-album wonder Earthsuit. Marketing aside, this is fantastic music no matter the genre. “Typical,” “Chaos,” and “You Are Mine” are the ones I return to most often.

  1. Brooke Fraser – Albertine (2006)

Piano pop doesn’t do justice as a descriptor of this artfully crafted album with few to no flaws. Each arrangement unique, nothing distracting from the art. Well done. 5 Stars.

  1. Anberlin – Cities (2007)

Hands down their magnum opus.

  1. Jars of Clay – Good Monsters (2006)

A tad more aggressive musically, this is where social justice came to the forefront of the message. “Work,” “Dead Man (Carry Me),” and the tremendous cover of “All My Tears” bring me back for more, and then I remember how amazing the rest of the album is too.

  1. Mae – The Everglow (2005)

An indie-rock concept album. This one demands your full attention. Best listened to while reading the accompanying booklet.

  1. David Crowder Band – A Collision (2005)

The amount of thought and attention to detail put into this one is staggering. My pick for their best overall album.

  1. House of Heroes – The End Is Not The End (2008)

This band and this album should have made them hugely famous. I’m still scratching my head why it didn’t. Pop/punk/rock with world-class vocals and harmonies. So. Many. Great. Songs.

  1. Relient K – Mmhmm (2004)

Relient K’s most cohesive and mature album to date. I still don’t think they made a better album than this.

  1. Switchfoot – The Beautiful Letdown (2003)

Hard to deny that this was a smash album on the strength of the reworked and re-released song “Dare You To Move” and the grungy mega-hit “Meant To Live.” With a storied career that is still going this still stands out as their best album in my opinion.


Honorable Mention:

Underoath – They’re Only Chasing Safety (2004)

Newsboys – Go (2006)

Emery – In Shallow Seas We Sail (2009)

Switchfoot – Nothing Is Sound (2005)

Casting Crowns – Self-Titled (2003)

Welcome Wagon – Self-Titled

The Choir – O How The Mighty Have Fallen (2005)

Pedro The Lion – Control

Fiction Family – Self-Titled (2009)

Slick Shoes – Self-Titled (2002)


Also Ran (didn’t finish):

Five Iron Frenzy – Electric Boogaloo 2 (2001)


High In My Personal Rotation During the Era:

Swithfoot – Oh! Gravity (2006)

Relient K – Two Lefts Don’t Make A Right…But Three Do (2003)

Jars of Clay – The Eleventh Hour (2002)

Steven Curtis Chapman – Declaration (2001)

Rebecca St. James – Transform (2000)

Phil Joel – God Is Watching Over You (2000)

Tobymac – Momentum (2001)

Larue – Self-Titled (2000)

The O.C. Supertones – Loud & Clear (2000)

Pillar – Where Do We Go From Here (2004)

Plus One – Exodus (2003)

FM Static – What Are You Waiting For? (2003)

Dietrich Haddon – Lost & Found (2002)

Royal Ruckus – Self-Titled (2002)

Everyday Sunday – Stand Up (2002)


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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Hold Fast by Jaron Micah

Growing up I have had a different childhood than many. I say this knowing I have been blessed with my circumstances, yet still understanding it has been different. I have an older brother named Caleb who has severe autism, muscular dystrophy, and other disabilities. I often say despite the challenges his disabilities bring every day, he is the light and center of our family. Especially through the process of writing and recording my EP “Hold Fast,” I have realized I would not be the person I am today without the impact and influence my brother has had on me - all without saying any words to me. I have learned and been told that the best songs often come from a place of pain or deep emotion. So I write my songs and music from these experiences of growing up with a brother who I wished I could talk with, or wished I could play with, or wished I could see him suffer no longer from these mental and physical disabilities. 

Also growing up, I have had amazing examples of love, service, and patience from my brother, but especially my two parents. I feel they have helped ground me in my faith and in the Word and it is often from scripture that I draw inspiration to write my lyrics. This is especially true with my EP “Hold Fast” as it is a collection of songs combining contemporary worship with my own style of acoustic, intimate, and folky styles. An example of my lyrics being inspired by scripture can be heard in my second track on the EP titled “Blessings Poured on Us.” This song was written from Psalm 32 discussing how we receive blessings by our transgressions being forgiven through Christ. 


Jaron Micah Bundy is a 17-year-old musician, songwriter, and producer. His passion is music and what drives his passion is creating something that can reach and impact others.  Listen to “Hold Fast” by Jaron Micah out now on all digital platforms to stream or download.


Thursday, June 4, 2020

'Sanity' by Kyra Isaacs



I struggled with emotional and mental illness for about a year and a half. It was really overwhelming for me because like many may feel in that space, it felt like God was nowhere to be found. Until I came across this incredible scripture in the book of John chapter 11 verse 35 -- “Jesus wept.” Reading that validated so much for me. It made realize that I serve a God who doesn’t dismiss human emotion, he sees it, he validates it even when he himself knows of the goodness to come. Sometimes we don’t want to be told we’re going to be okay, because we know we will be. We want to be seen, known, and heard… and invalidating an emotion almost feels like you refuse to acknowledge that the problem exists.

That’s why I wrote Sanity -- to reflect the process of feeling known, heard and seen by the father. Expressing those raw emotions in the song itself so the depths of God’s love could be understood on the level he expressed it to me. He wept with me and empathized with my heart. He brought healing to what I felt would be permanently broken within me and I wanted the same for whoever struggled with the same feelings and emotions.

Sanity is a “song hug” it lets us know He sees , He knows , He hears and through that He Validates and brings resolution.

-Kyra Isaacs



Wednesday, June 3, 2020

“Dance Upon the Promise” by John Harter of The War Within


The overarching collective grief shared across generations and cultures during our current international crisis is truly something I haven’t experienced in my lifetime.  


Having been saved almost 12 years ago, I consider myself someone who lives each day with a great deal of hope – however, even I have had moments these last few months where I find myself sinking into despair, wondering what next month or even next week will look like for my family and loved ones. As someone who has struggled with addiction, and still wrestles through daily thoughts of relapse, it is a curious thing to look around and realize that perhaps the rest of the world has finally caught up to the craziness in my head. 


Like most songwriters, I often find myself responding to what I see and feel about the world with a guitar, a piano, and a pencil. So as I began to walk through the early days of the pandemic, I knew in my heart that my response to it all needed to be a song. So I took some old melodies I had been working on in years past and began penning what became our new single OUT OF MY GRAVE. Thematically, it certainly isn’t much of a departure from some similar themes that we often explore through our musical project The War Within. Light in the darkness; hope against despair; beauty within brokenness; love for the hurting; grace for the furthest. Singing about the valleys and the mountaintops; the joy and the pain of living here in this broken world waiting for our Saviour to come is sort of the lifeblood of our whole project. But I knew with this song, we wanted to take it even one step further and really explore the desperation of feeling like all hope is truly gone, to the point where we are “barely surviving, sinking beneath the waves”, setting the stage for God’s promise to come roaring back into our lives, our hearts, and our headspace. 


On the surface, it is kind of crazy to see my testimony of addiction and grace as sort of a metaphor for what the entire world is experiencing; but doing so unlocked probably the most honest lyrics I’ve ever penned. But I think the most important part of this song (like any The War Within song) is the Jesus moments. The moments where we know that even in light of every hurt, every addiction, every sin, every heartbreak and every deep soul craving, Jesus Christ is still waiting to take our hand and bring us back into a vibrant life with Him. A life of hope and grace. A life where we can take our brokenness, our pain, and even our pandemics and put them in their correct place: beneath God. 


My favourite line in the song is in the chorus. “When I was in my grave, You raised me up to sing and dance upon the promises You made.” When Jesus comes back, THAT is where I want Him to find me: singing and dancing upon His promises. I hope and pray that this song helps you enter that place of trust and celebration in His promises as well. 


-John Harter



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This Friday, January 22, 2021
Pat Barrett Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly - Single [Bowyer & Bow]
Blanca Soy - Single [Curb/Word]
CAIN Rise Up (Lazarus) [Song Session] - Single [Provident]
Cochren & Co. Don't Lose Hope [Gotee]
Sean Curran Ways - Single [sixsteps/Sparrow]
Everybody Worship & Nick & Becky Drake The Ark - Single [Integrity]
Hillsong Worship Fresh Wind - Single [Capitol CMG]
Phil Joel Better Than I Found It - EP (independent)
JUDAH. You’ve Done The Rest (ft. Jon Guerra) - Single [Capitol/LilhomieCHANCHO]
The Kingdom Heirs God Knows How Much Mercy I Need - Single [Sonlite]
Branan Murphy This World Is Not My Home - Single [DREAM]
River Valley Worship Shadows / Spotlights - Single (Ensemble Version) [DREAM]
Chase Tremaine Development & Compromise (independent)

Next Friday, January 29, 2021
Anberlin More To Living Than Being Alive: Lockdown Livestream September 18, 2020 Vinyl (independent)
Lincoln Brewster Perfect Love [Integrity]
Madison Street Worship God of Salvation (I Still Believe) (Revisted) - Single [Integrity]
Remedy Drive Imago Amor (independent)
REVERE Come And Tear Down The Walls (Corey Voss & Sarah Kroger) - Single [Integrity]
Joel Vaughn Louder than the Lies [DREAM]
We Are Messengers Image Of God (feat. Vince Gill) - Single [Curb/Word]

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