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
- Sanctus Real – Fight The Tide (2004)
Crunchy guitar-based pop/rock. Also worth mentioned that their Face Of Love album is also top-notch.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- Copeland – Eat, Sleep, Repeat (2006)
Whispery, reflective indie-rock.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Shawn McDonald – Simply Nothing (2004)
Singer/Songwriter debut with acoustic guitar-based songs and a dash of hip-hop rhythms.
- 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.”
- 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.
- The Classic Crime – The Silver Chord (2008)
Raw. Electric guitars. Intense. Dynamic. Mature. This is excellent rock n roll music.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Hawk Nelson – Letters To The President (2004)
One of my favorite pop/punk albums of all time. High nostalgia factor here.
- Mark Schultz – Self-Titled (2000)
A piano man with a handful of catchy, tear-jerking songs. Great debut!
- Future of Forestry – Twilight (2007)
Well done melancholic indie-rock.
- LetterKills – The Bridge (2004)
Punk-emo rock with some screamed vocals and melodic singing thrown in the mix as well.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Seabird – Til’ We See The Shore (2008)
Bouncy, rolling piano-led pop. Earworm central here. “Apparitions” is divine.
- The Elms – The Chess Hotel (2006)
Snotty, gritty-in-your-face-rock-n-roll at its finest.
- Mat Kearney – Nothing Left To Lose (2006)
Soak your acoustic guitar songs in hip-hop and chill.
- 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!
- 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.
- Tobymac – Welcome To Diverse City (2004)
The best overall album from the godfather of Christian music.
- Pax217 – Self-Titled (2000)
Reggae influences help this rap/rock group stand apart from others of the era.
- Julianna Theory – Emotion Is Dead (2000)
Emo/rock unafraid to slow it down to include dance, harder rock, and piano into the mix.
- Remedy Drive – Daylight Is Coming (2008)
Another terrific piano-driven pop/rock masterpiece.
Time for the Top 50!!!
- Starflyer 59 – Talking Voice vs. Singing Voice (2005)
A highly regarded pop/rock album from a highly consistent band.
- Derek Webb – She Must and Shall Go Free (2003)
A no-holds-barred acoustic guitar-based wake-up call for the church.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Lecrae – Rebel (2008)
Leaps and bounds were made on this his third album and he would continue to soar to greater heights.
- 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.
- Phil Wickham – Cannons (2007)
Soaring vocals and worshipful lyrics with the title track, “You’re Beautiful,” and “True Love” being my favorite songs.
- 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.
- Sara Groves – Tell Me What You Know (2007)
Piano-based singer/songwriter with the deeper things to say in soothing ways.
- 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.
- Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans (2004)
Lots of banjo and faith musings from an indie darling. I was late to this one, but its great.
- 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.
- Andrew Peterson – Carried Along (2000)
Thinking man’s guy and guitar, Peterson does it better than most. Poetic and charming.
- Sandra McCracken – The Builder And The Architect (2006)
Hymn-like song structures and feel to pair with a soothing voice and well-crafted lyrics.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- Skillet – Comatose (2007)
Symphonic rock begging for pyrotechnics, this would be a career-defining album for them.
- Flyleaf – Self-Titled (2005)
Female hard rock with heavy guitars, screams, and clean vocals. “So Sick” is still a jam.
- Kevin Max – The Imposter (2005)
Finely crafted pop/rock. His most immediately accessible album in my opinion, and my overall favorite.
- Mars iLL – Pro*Pain (2006)
Hip-Hop at its finest. Versatile beats, world-class rapping. 5 Star worthy.
- Relient K – Forget And Not Slow Down (2009)
A mature piano/punk break-up record.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Anberlin – Never Take Friendship Personal (2005)
Emo-flavored rock with pristine vocals.
- 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.
- Switchfoot – Hello Hurricane (2009)
Chock full of defiantly hopeful alt/rock anthems. Top 5 in their deep catalog for me.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Blindside – Silence (2002)
One of the few hard rock albums I return to often. “Caught A Glimpse” and “Pitiful” are my favorites.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Anberlin – Cities (2007)
Hands down their magnum opus.
- 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.
- Mae – The Everglow (2005)
An indie-rock concept album. This one demands your full attention. Best listened to while reading the accompanying booklet.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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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