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Day 17: David Craft's Top 20 Favorite Albums

 




I have been greatly privileged over the last quarter-century to listen to some astonishing albums (in good and bad ways). Narrowing it down to 20 was pretty hard, and some late additions and musical mood swings certainly didn't help. Although there's a pretty good spread over genre, most of these albums fall in the 2004-2007 range; probably a pretty reliable testimony as to my age. Additionally, I seem to have a penchant for closing tracks, as about half of my song picks from the below albums fit into that category.

While all of these artists have been somehow connected to the Christian music industry, expanding this list to include secular releases would change it very little.

Note: for the purpose of this list, I am only including one album per artist in order to create a greater level of diversity. Also, I did not include any pure compilations, for those of you wondering why dc Talk is missing in (in)action. -- David Craft, JFH Staff Writer


1. The Send - Cosmos (2007)
Hands down, this has been my favorite album since its July 2007 release. Under-marketed and tossed to the wayside (though not critically, I might add), it unfortunately remains the only solo album released by Joseph Kisselburgh. Aside from the first track, clues that this is an unconventional worship album are few and far between. What is seen instead is a passionate struggle of faith explained with intricately deep lyrics, skillful layering of acoustic and electric guitars, and beautiful and haunting melodies. This 13-track masterpiece is as close to perfection as an album can come. Nine years later, I'm still holding my breath for a sophomore album, regardless of how far-fetched such a hope may be. Favorite track: In Repose




2. Tim Be Told - Humanity (2011)
This independent release is near impossible to top. Its lyrics resound with uncommon honesty, unveiling pain, worship, loss, and hope in their purest forms. True to its name, it examines the state of humanity while twisting together multiple genres from soul to pop to rock. The ballads are as unforgettable as the upbeat tongue-in-cheek tunes. Favorite track: Just Another Man




3. Falling Up - Crashings (2004)
Picking just one Falling Up record for this list was hard, and it was a toss-up between Crashings, Captiva, and Falling Up, so I went with nostalgia. The elements of rock, rap, and nu-metal, along with hints of the forecoming 'experimental' and ambient sounds made this head-banging album one for any collection. Favorite track: Arafax Deep




4. Leeland - Sound of Melodies (2006)
This is just a great album in every way. Buying a debut from an unknown band is always a risk, but I'm so glad I took this one. Every track from beginning to end is memorable, and every listen remains as fresh as the first. As I wrote in my review of their latest album last month, I still feel nearly moved to tears even now when I listen to "Carried to the Table" or "Tears of the Saints," and am experiencing a tinge of melancholy by not listing the other nine tracks. Favorite track(s): Sound of Melodies/Beautiful Lord/Carried to the Table




5. My Epic - This Is Rescue (2006)
My Epic's debut EP may not have the finesse of their latest releases, but the lyrical and instrumental rawness is a part of what makes this project so fantastic. With the album opener are penned some lines of the most epic depth: "Could love be more than feeling; more than second-hand romance I've salvaged from hearts as dark and damaged? Could it be Someone who gave up everything to show that I am fallen but worth the scars it took to prove that this is love?" The theological intricacies of these words are without equal, and while the band's spiritual depth has only grown with each passing release, this is where it all started. Favorite track: Shadows




6. Rich Mullins - The Jesus Record (1997)
The story behind this record (the original demo version) could by itself drag this album onto a list such as this one. The message of it, however, cements its spot in the top six. Mullins was by far one of the greatest songwriters of the generation and the stripped down recordings presented here perfectly showcase his Magnum Opus and parting gift to our world. Favorite track: Hard to Get




7. Phil Joel - The deliberatePeople. album (2007)
A quick look over my reviews will reveal that I'm pretty critical of worship albums, but when one hits the spot, it hits it hard. Former "Newsboy" Phil Joel creates a project so intimate that it can at times feel invasive to listen to. Lyrics such as "You're challenging all that I think I deserve, challenging the ways that I handle my hurt 'cause it's You who shoulders the blame" serve to frame a close walk with Christ. Indeed, you will be spiritually challenged upon listening to this wonderful work of art. Favorite track: Burning Down




8. Wavorly - Conquering the Fear of Flighttarget=_blank (2007)
Largely inspired by the works of C.S. Lewis, this alternative record carried with it an aggressive edge that likely earned the band a drop from their label. The lyrics were fierce and the album culminates with a rock epic detailing a conversation between God, Jesus, Satan, and the Church. It is of little wonder that this album was too rich for casual consumption. Favorite track: Tale of the Dragon's Defeat




9. Chris Rice - Deep Enough to Dream (1995)
I was introduced to Chris Rice by my father, and can clearly remember listening to him as a young boy. If I recall correctly, about half of this album's songs were charting singles, which speaks for this project's greatness more than I can. Though he's pushing a decade-long hiatus, I eagerly wait with anticipation for his return to the music scene. Favorite track: Sometimes Love




10. Newsboys - Go (2006)
It was hard placing this album so far down on the list, but it was also hard picking just one album by the Newsboys. I was tempted to select Shine: The Hits and am still questioning this decision, but I digress. Go really serves as a glimpse into the perfect chemistry of Peter Furler, Phil Joel (see: The deliberatePeople.album at #7), and Steve Taylor. It's a quirky, catchy, and worshipful experience that belongs in any collection. Favorite Track: Wherever We Go




11. Aaron Sprinkle - Lackluster (2004)
Perhaps better-known as a producer of music rather than a musician himself, his work should not be discounted by any means. While I haven't taken the time to count, I know that Sprinkle has produced a handful of the albums on this very list. The 14-track Lackluster perfectly summarizes the best of his solo work prior to 2013's Water and Guns. Favorite track: Solace




12. Thousand Foot Krutch - The End is Where We Begin (2012)
Speaking of Aaron Sprinkle, his work with TFK significantly helped to make their crowdfunded comeback album into the masterpiece that we have today. The rap/rock that established the band at the beginning of their career made a magnificent return for Trevor and company, and the ballads were perfectly placed and truly meaningful. Favorite track: Courtesy Call




13. Skillet - Comatose (2006)
At the time of its release, this was the 'hardest' album I'd ever owned, and I loved it. It's the band's best effort to date and it most certainly raised the industry bar concerning orchestral rock. Favorite Track: Looking for Angels




14. Attalus - Into the Sea (2015)
This is by far the longest record on the list, but every moment of it serves only to add to the drama of this magnificent concept album. As I wrote in my original review, the album rests on seafaring and nautical elements and is both allegorical and direct in its messages. Although thematically dark, the redemptive components remain clear and at the forefront throughout Into the Sea. Although the album is at times as chaotic as the ocean of which it speaks, it comes together at the end, forming an unrivaled masterpiece. Favorite track: Message in a Bottle




15. Rootdown - Tidal Wave (2011)
Christian surf-rock is in short supply, and this Paul Wright-fronted band met a need I never knew I had before listening to Tidal Wave. "Awesome," "chill," and "a blast" are the best terms I can use to describe any such album that makes for a great road trip, beach trip, or any trip. Favorite Track: HB (Keep On Dancin')




16. Brightwood - The Love Antidote EP (2006)
While most of their listeners never considered them to be a "Christian" band, these Oregonians made their faith abundantly clear in their music. While all of these experimental tracks are love songs, their quality remains undiminished. The under-produced album bleeds so much emotion that it covers the (intentionally) awkward lyrics and hints of immature pop-punk angst. The EP reminds listeners that while we don't always respond to heartbreak in a Christ-like manner at first, it is imperative that we ultimately arrive there in that place of peace. Favorite Track: My Reply




17. Switchfoot - The Beautiful Letdown (2003)
While Switchfoot has released many phenomenal albums over their considerably long career, Beautiful Letdown remains my favorite. It's perfectly produced to where the edginess remains but the radio-friendly nature of the album helped to move over 2.7 million units. Favorite track: Twenty-Four




18. Archers Rise - Archers Rise EP (2012)
Over the course of only two EPs, Archers Rise has created a distinguished set of songs that reveal just how talented they are across a few different genres. Fronted by former Falling Up guitarist Tom Cox, (see Crashings, #3) this EP came out nowhere, and was a great musical highlight of 2012. Favorite track: Dragons Beware




19. Relient K - Mmhmm (2004)
This album was a true staple for any semi-rebellious kid in the mid 2000's. For both its genre and era, it was a considerably long project, clocking in at close to an hour, but the continuous callbacks and melodic nods between songs make this album a highlight of the pop-punk scene, both within and outside of the Christian realm. Favorite track: I So Hate Consequences




20. Twenty One Pilots - Blurryface (2015)
While I greatly appreciated their prior albums, Blurryface showed much growth and development for the Columbus duo. The cross-genre elements they play with and switch around with such seamless ease make this complex concept album a project to remember. Favorite track: Goner

 

 

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