This is a list I’ve been mulling over ever since my best friend shared his own list back in January. Music has been a massive part of my life since I first listened to Thrive by the Newsboys nearly eleven years ago. Although, as my taste has developed and I’ve found myself growing out of a fair number of bands I once called “favourites,” everyone has those special few bands that, no matter how old you get or how much your taste changes, they will always find a place in your collection. Here are fifteen bands I will never stop coming back to.
These southern rockers from Carolina have always put a smile on face. Even when I slowly started to realize that their latest release, H A R D L O V E, was less than stellar, I still came away liking tracks such as “Money and Fame” and “Be Here Long.” Listen to albums such as The Reckoning or Rivers In The Wasteland and it will become apparent that NEEDTOBREATHE is at their best when they have the guitars blazing. Fans of Kings of Leon will find some similarities, especially in the vocals, but musically these guys reign supreme in my books. Check them out, you won’t be disappointed.
Favourite tracks: “The Heat,” “Drive All Night,” “Maybe They’re On To Us,” Let Us Love,” “The Heart.”
14. Wolves At The Gate
With only three studio records behind them, Wolves At The Gate are quickly becoming one of the most established names in Christian metal. These guys, along with Demon Hunter, introduced me to a genre I hadn’t given much of an ear to before (growing up with a fundamentalist mindset can make you see metal in a rather negative light). Yet, after I heard the fantastic vocals of Steve Cobucci and Nick Detty, along with their unabashedly Gospel center lyricism, I knew I had found a new passion. I wouldn’t call myself a “metalhead” per se, but since the last notes of VxV rang out metal has been an important voice in my life as I’ve gotten older.
Favourite tracks: “Dust To Dust,” “East To West,” “Awaken,” “Flickering Flame,” “Lowly.”
“Cities….what an album….” I’m sure many fans sigh these words whenever the name Anberlin comes up in conversation. To not call Cities my favourite album by them and still agree with those words speaks volumes of the talent these guys possessed. From the early days of Blueprints for the Blackmarket, all the way to the experimental Lowborn, one can find pop/rock perfection here many times over. Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place and Vital battle it out for the number one place each time I listen, and each time I find the latter takes another step forward.
Favourite tracks: “Paperthin Hymn,” “A Whisper and a Clamour,” “(*Fin),” “Down,” “Modern Age.”
Flyleaf’s 2005 debut was a huge statement of my angsty teenage self. I thought I was so cool jamming “I’m So Sick,” “Sorrow,” and “All Around Me.” I wanted none of that CCM stuff, this was where it was at. Fast forward a few years and I don’t find myself coming back to that album too often. Instead, Memento Mori and New Horizons are proving time and time again just how good they really are. Lacey Sturm’s emotion laden voice still sends chills down my spine. Listen to “This Close,” “Swept Away,” or “Freedom” and tell me you don’t feel anything. Although they’ve fallen off the radar since Lacey left, the legacy goes on in Sturm’s solo material (which you should also check out).
Favourite tracks: “All Around Me,” “This Close,” “Swept Away,” “Cage On the Ground,” “Broken Wings.”
You know those posts on Reddit where de-converts look back and cringe at the Christian music they used to listen to? Songs such as “Happy Song” or “I Can Sing Of Your Love Forever” are always mentioned somewhere. For many, that’s where Delirious?’s legacy stopped. Yes, they paved the way for modern worship today, but the Cutting Edge years only established a band who wanted to do nothing more than write mostly goofy worship tunes the youth could sing. What came after were records that, in my mind, easily rival the artists pushing the creative envelope today. World Service remains one of my favourite records of all time, but Glo, The Mission Bell, and Kingdom of Comfort are fantastic albums any music fan should jump on.
Favourite Songs: twenty right here
10. My Chemical Romance
Arising right around the time emo was exploding, My Chemical Romance offered a unique theatrical spin on the genre. Their goth like appearance and conceptual lyrics sparked an interest that only ignited when I heard “Welcome To The Black Parade.” Everything about that song was perfect to me. The Black Parade is a release that has played a massive part in shaping my music tastes today. To end their legacy with the dance rock tour de force of Danger Days is something many others could only dream of.
Favourite tracks: “Helena,” “This Is How I Disappear,” “Welcome To The Black Parade,” “Famous Last Words,” “Summertime.”
Similar to MCR’s wild theatrics, Showbread left a lasting impact on many, many punk fans. Their unique genre, passionately labeled by fans as “Raw Rock,” was fast, heavy, and astonishingly creative. From their major label debut, No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical, the two part conceptual gut punch Anorexia/Nervosa, and the subdued Who Can Know It, these guys made it a priority to never release the same album twice. When we finally did get something akin to their debut, it was nothing short of the best farewell a fan could imagine. They were controversial. They were heavy. They were Christian. If they sound like something up your alley do not hesitate to check out their albums The Fear of God and Cancer.
Favourite Tracks: “Lost Connection With The Head,” “The Beginning (Nervosa Version),” “Dear Music,” “You Will Die In a Prison,” “My Shadow Is a Bat.”
8. Green Day
Listening to an entire Green Day album for the first time finally settled a conflict that I had been wrestling with for quite some time. I was stuck between listening to music I wanted to like (CCM and more artistically experimental records in order to feel “mature”) as opposed to music I did like. I found myself wanting to jam “Holiday” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” more than anything. The latter song, in particular, I’ve always related to in a powerful way, not having many people in my life I was really close to. Eventually, I purchased American Idiot off iTunes and I fell in love right as the guitar solo in the title track hit. What a song. What an album. 21st Century Breakdown was up next and I spun it endlessly. Even their earlier albums such as Nimrod and Warning are thoroughly enjoyable. I love these guys to bits and will for years to come.
Favourite tracks: “Jesus of Suburbia,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “Wake Me When September Ends,” “Viva La Gloria!” “Forever Now.”
7. Relient K
Relient K is yet another band that has played a big part in shaping my musical tastes today. Starting out as a rather goofy pop/punk band with their first three records, these guys traversed an honestly awesome evolution from Mmhmm to their latest masterpiece Air For Free. I feel Matt Thiessen is one of the few songwriters in the Christian industry whose songs inspire pure, unadulterated joy unlike the painfully forced “inspiration” CCM has become known for. Start at Mmhmm and if you like what you hear I highly recommend Two Lefts…. and Forget and Not Slow Down.
Favourite tracks: “Chap Stick, Chapped Lips, and Things Like Chemistry,” “I So Hate Consequences,” “I Don’t Need A Soul,” “Savannah,” “Marigold.”
Since their humble beginnings as a small pop/punk band with big ambitions on All We Know Is Falling, Paramore has undergone one of the best stylistic changes I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing. Even with an initial disappointment, with each consecutive listen, After Laughter just gets better and better. As if that wasn’t enough, their albums Brand New Eyes and Paramore stand among my favourite releases of the 2000s and 2010s. If you may excuse the pun, I need more Paramore in my life!
Favourite tracks: “Hallelujah,” “Ignorance,” “Brick By Boring Brick,” “Proof,” “Grudges.”
Theocracy, where have you been all my life? Thanks to two wonderful 5-star reviews from Jesus Freak Hideout, I decided to jump into the band’s latest effort, Ghost Ship, to see what all the hype was about. Goodness gracious, this was amazing! The soaring vocals of Matt Smith, the Scripturally based and thought-provoking lyrics, and music even the word epic doesn’t justify, I could go on. Since buying their entire discography this past Christmas they haven’t left my playlist. If it weren’t for discovering them so late they would be far higher on this list. Given more time and another album and they may even challenge my top three. Mirror of Souls has already become one of my favourite metal albums of all time. Simply staggering.
Favourite tracks: “Theocracy,” “Martyr,” “Mirror of Souls,” “I Am,” “The Wonder Of It All.”
4. Jimmy Eat World
Anyone remember the high school anthem “The Middle”? It was a great song for sure, and it made Bleed American a household album, but do you remember their songs “Work,” “Big Casino,” or “23”? If you asked me a few years ago I would answer with a, “No, I can’t say I do.” Ignorant teenage me thought Jimmy Eat World was a one hit wonder. I was so very wrong. Since the release of Bleed American, these guys have produced album after album of pop/rock perfection. Futures, Chase This Light, and even the tragically underrated Invented reveal a band whose prime wasn’t even beginning when “The Middle” became a massive hit. And with the release of Integrity Blues last year (a release I sadly didn’t start listening to until after my year end list was completed) they haven’t slowed down in the least.
Favourite tracks: “A Praise Chorus,” “Kill,” “23,” “Dizzy,” “Invented.”
3. House of Heroes
When a band has managed to avoid a critical pan for six consecutive studio albums, two of those being some of my favourites of all time, you know you have something special on your hands. House of Heroes began as a relatively small, though no less amazing, pop/punk act before breaking out with their timeless opus The End Is Not The End. Killer melodies, inventive lyrics, and a powerful vocalist are found only on the surface of what this band has to offer. If you’ve liked any band on this list so far and haven’t given the Heroes a chance, do yourself a favor and put on either the aforementioned The End or personal favourite Suburba.
Favourite tracks: “Dangerous,” “Sooner Or Later,” “God Save The Foolish Kings,” “Dance (Blow It All Away),” “We Make Our Stars.”
2. My Epic.
Recently a fellow critic for the Christian music site, Jesus Freak Hideout, released a profound review for the latest release by Jesus Culture. In it, he eloquently pointed out everything wrong with the majority of modern worship music today: shallow, theologically troublesome lyrics, painfully dull musical compositions, and an unnecessary volume of releases. Facedown giants, My Epic, have been the antecedent to this unfortunate rule since the release of their debut full-length, I Am Undone. Their brand of post-hardcore is both heavy and incredibly beautiful and their lyricism remains some of the best I have ever heard or read. Songs such as “Lower Still,” “Alone,” and “Curse,” have impacted my walk with God in ways I didn’t think were possible. There is a reason Behold is my second favourite album of all time, only sitting behind The Violet Burning’s The Story Of Our Lives. If that three part masterpiece doesn’t count, I would have no qualms with moving Behold to the number one spot, it means that much to me.
Before I reveal my number one, here are a few honorable mentions because why not?
Sanctus Real. Their early years were staples of my childhood listening, but in all honesty, I haven’t loved anything after 2008’s We Need Each Other.
Radiohead. Ok Computer was nothing short of a masterstroke and undoubtedly one of the most important records of the 1990s. Outside of that their stuff has a severely limited replay value for me. Kid A, for example, is painted with such cold and eerie colors that I only play it when I’m in a certain mood.
Newsboys (1994-2006). Thrive was the album that got me into music, and for that, I’m incredibly thankful.
Twenty One Pilots. I hate drifting apart from great bands because of a fan base, but these guys have been idolized to a point that isn’t funny. It’s such a shame because the S/T, Vessel, and Blurryface are good albums, although I haven’t revisited them in awhile. And don’t remind me of their cover of My Chemical Romance’s “Cancer.” Please.
U2. The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree, enough said.
ABBA. I have to add ABBA here. When I originally wrote this I didn’t even think to include them, but they really are pop legends.
I distinctly remember having a day out with my family at somewhere many Newsboys fans will recognize (pssst, it’s Mooloolaba) and buying The Beautiful Letdown at a Christian bookstore for ten dollars. Since playing that album on the drive home Switchfoot has constantly challenged me and “dared” me to become the person I always dreamt I would be. Jon Foreman has been a huge inspiration to me since day one and I’ve only found myself growing closer to their music as I have aged. And like any great band, they’ve only gotten better with time. Nostalgia is keeping TBL at number one, but Hello Hurricane will always have a special place in my collection, along with their other eight releases. If music inspires one thing it is this, “Life is short, live it well.”
Favourite tracks: Post coming soon….