We’ve all been there…
You turn on the radio one too many times. You hear one-too-many generic worship albums. One-too-many of your favorite artists degenerates into just another pop act. You heard one-too-many new artists that sound like Nickelback. Who knows what might set you off, but the time comes when you are just fed up. You cannot stand the direction that music is going and you decide that you need to remember what “real” music is.
So you turn off everything. You get your MP3 player or your stereo or your computer or your record player (etc.), and you put on some artist that never fails. And instantly, you forget all your frustrations with music. You remember how beautiful it can sound. You forget all that generic, sound-alike, unoriginal music that has been crammed into your ears, and are completely taken up with ethereal, emotional, pristine perfection which now graces them. Maybe they are simply your favorite artists. Maybe you have a more emotional or nostalgic connection to them. Maybe you like it for its lyrical substance, or it unfailingly points you toward Our Creator of All Things. Or maybe some artist really does create the most beautiful music you have ever heard. But whatever the case, you simply are indebted to those artists for making such incredible music.
Here are six artists (in no particular order) that I often turn to in those situations (although this list of by no means exhaustive)…
· -Steven Curtis Chapman: I fell in love with SCC’s music at the age of nine when I discovered that he mentioned my (at the time) favorite TV show in the first verse of his song “Live Out Loud” (don’t chuckle, I’m sure your first impression of artists were just as shallow when you were nine). Eventually, I developed a more solid foundation for my fandom, which has only solidified more as years went on. Honest, heartfelt, often emotional, well-written lyrics paired with music that is both irresistibly accessible and of a sound artistic integrity. And the nostalgic value of his music puts it over the top.
· -John Reuben: I was late to the John Reuben bandwagon, but I quickly made up for lost time when, after reading the JFH reviews on all six of his albums, I made an impulse order on Amazon of four of them despite the fact that I had never heard any song of his. At first, I didn’t know quite what to make of him with his stereotypical “white-man raps” and blend of the silly and serious, and I wondered if I had been too hasty in my purchase. But after latching onto a few of his more lyrically biting songs and slowly coming to the realization of how unique his craft was, my respect and admiration for him grew immensely. Thought-provoking, honest, innovative, and just plain fun, this is definitely one impulse purchase I don’t regret.
· -Propaganda: Before I listened to Propaganda’s album Excellent, I was not a hip hop fan. After I listened to the album, I was. Need I say more?
· -Adam Young: Before The Midsummer Station, there was a shy, wide-eyed, Minnesotan insomniac who played around on his computer and who, in comparision to most sugar-infested pop music out there, served up a veritable gourmet meal of delicious treats that it was hard to believe was actually healthy. Indeed, no matter which musical project Adam Young tacked (most notably his indietronica project Owl City, but also his more acoustically-based project Sky Sailing, and others), you could expect a creative explosion of dreamy charm and wit that would drive away frustrations like the plague. I just pray that Adam Young can steal his music back from being just another pop act in an ocean of pop acts.
· -Charmaine: Who makes the best pop music in the CCM industry? I believe that if her 2010 album Love Reality is any indication, it is, without a doubt, Charmaine. Aside from having one of the most captivating voices I’ve ever heard, her brand of orchestral symphonic pop is the most excellently executed and unhinderingly appealing sounds I have ever head. In a span of 10 songs and 40 minutes, I doubt you’ll find any more perfect pop music for the music lover.
· -Iona: For this one, I need to give a shout-out to my fellow staff reviewer “Tincan” Caldwell. Sometime last year, I was sifting through the reviews index looking for some promising music I can check out, and I saw a Mr. Caldwell’s review for Iona’s album Another Realm (rated 4.5 stars), whose genre was listed as “Irish Folk Rock.” I was intrigued and read the review to discover that it was a 95-minute double concept album, and that Iona had been making music for over twenty years. I was more intrigued. After finding a couple of their songs on Youtube, I was no longer intrigued; I was dumbfounded. Breathtaking vocals, mind-numbing guitars, wicked saxophones, ethereal flutes, swirling bagpipes, explosive drums, countless other impeccably played instruments, and beauty all around. I thought then, and still think to this day, that Iona makes the best music I have ever heard.
So who do you guys turn to when you are facing musical depression?
Great blog, bro! For me, this is happening a couple times a week these days.
Artists I turn to to cleanse the palette: PFR, Dakoda Motor Co, original Audio Adrenaline, John-James-era Newsboys, Dead Poetic, Steven Curtis Chapman, Jars of Clay
Five Iron Frenzy, Owl City, Wavorly, (Before they went Pop,) Love and Death, Pillar, and old-school Project 86.
Anything by Jon Foreman or Petra. Always perfect.
That's why I love old school rock, so much more organic and original. I love the rock nowadays, (We as Human, Red, TFK, Skillet, Nine Lashes) but the older stuff is so much better. Back then, the artists did what THEY wanted to play, and not what ever the label wanted, (I'm not saying that's what they all do, but I've noticed a trend) And you can't go wrong with Old-school, BDL and Truthless Heroes, Project 86.
For me, Children 18:3, Poema, Eisley, The Ember Days, Bellarive, Bryan & Katie Torwalt, Five Iron Frenzy, The OC Supertones, The Insyderz, August Burns Red, For Today, and Oh Sleeper. These are some bands that help me escape the monotony of what's played on the radio.
Tim - there's some truth to that, but please don't underestimate the amount of music I/we hear so often over the years :)
As a follow up to my comment and others, I've noticed a trend as well. There's nothing wrong with music today and there's some gems out there. However, when you go back to the days of old, the music seems so genuine and real. Great albums from start to finish, not CDs (or cassettes back in the day) that you really wanted to skip anything. Other artists not mentioned that still get a nod in my books are Three Crosses, Barren Cross, Bleach, Geoff Moore and The Distance, Big Tent Revival, Whiteheart and Whitecross. It's sad to see that the music industry has kinda gone down the tubes so to speak.
Since you're firing up your record player, how about this "vinyl" playlist:
Daniel Amos - Horrendous Disc (and all of the Alarma Chronicles and Darn Floor, Big Bite while you're at it)
The Seventy-Sevens - All Fall Down (and the self-titled that followed it)
Mark Heard - Victims of the Age (and pretty much anything he recorded - songwriting genius)
Leslie Phillips - The Turning
Prodigal - Electric Eye
Steve Taylor - I Predict 1990 (or Chagall Guevera, but you have to graduate to CD for that one)
The Altar Boys - Gut Level Music
The Choir - Chase the Kangaroo
Those are some of the true "classics" (that, unfortunately in many cases, time seems to have all but forgotten) that will make you fall in love with music all over again!
I step outside the realm entirely, for even the creative pop and rock acts are still predictable (not a bad thing, but when I need something refreshing, I put on something different). I generally put on classical, jazz, or metal (classic metal, power or progressive metal, not the hardcore/metalcore scene that's just as guilty as pop for being mediocre). Most of the artists aren't Christian so I won't mention any by name except Theocracy. Brilliant songwriting, theologically sound lyrics, and overall musical geniuses. As they are on a metal label, not a generic label like Atlantic, Tooth and Nail, or Fairtrade (formerly INO), they have the freedom to write creatively and it shows.
Jars of Clay
Audio Adrenaline (Usually Bloom)
Supertones (usually the first 2 albums)
Five Iron Frenzy
All Star United
and though they aren't Christian...
This Beautiful Republic
Peter Furler Newsboys
Seventh Day Slumber
RED (Innocence & Instinct)
Just a little bit of Project 86
Love and Death
Switchfoot (Learning To Breathe)
Variety is key for me:
Anberlin - Cities
Becoming the Archetype - The Physics of Fire/Dichotomy
Emery - The Question
Beautiful Eulogy - Satellite Kites
Demon Hunter - Triptych
TFK - Phenomenon
Skillet - Collide
Falling Up (my favorite band)
War of Ages - Pride of the Wicked
Relient K - Mmhmm
and the list could go on...
These are the ones I can't get tired of, love the lyrical content and also great unique melodies and music:
As Cities Burns (Son, I loved you at your darkest)
The Ember Days
Ascend the hill
Love and Death
Relient K (mmhmm)
Wolves at the Gate
Children 18:3, Needtobreathe, All Star United, B. Reith, MxPx, Newsboys(with Peter Furler), Charmaine, Classic Crime, Future Of Forestry, PFR, Switchfoot, John Reuben, MercyMe, and The Rocket Summer.
I always throw on some Falling Up. Because their style has changed so much over the years, really anything of theirs will keep me satisfied for a while. I can listen to some of Crashings, or then some Midnight on Earthship or Hours. Also, they're my fave band (shout out to Josh further up in the comments!).