It's confession time. I really really do not like Christian music, at least 95% of it. It all just has THAT sound, you know, the one that makes it sound Christian. Without judging the hearts or motives of all the bands out there, most of it both lyrically and musically, just sounds formulaic and devoid of any real heart to me. It's weird I know but I can listen to a secular artist like Justin Townes Earle and relate so much more to it. I can just get caught up in his world because he writes from such a personal, honest place and he does such a fantastic job of conveying his thoughts and feelings through his lyrics and music. But lest I sound too critical, there are a few bands out there though which have managed to break out of that template. Here are some of my recommendations from a wide variety of genres.
1 - Everett
Everett is made up of just 2 guys who both share a passion for beautiful instrumental music. Dallas Taylor and Patrick Copeland have come up with something far removed from what you would expect from them based on their other projects. It's a little bit like Sigur Ros and Mogwai but with a more hopeful feel to it and best of all, you can download both of their EP's for free over here and here.
2 - Gungor
Gungor is another breath of fresh air, they have classified themselves as “liturgical post rock”. I'm not sure what that means, perhaps it's French for acoustic awesomeness? But seriously, the lyrics are good, the vocals, keys and cello are beautiful and it's pretty intricate too without getting bogged down in unnecessary complexity. And best of all, my four year old old loves the song and its taught him so many great things that many adults are still struggling to understand.
3 - Anathallo
Anathallo are great to watch just to see a sea of people running around on stage from instrument to instrument. But my favorite album is one comprised of just a few old hymns and does not really sound like anything else that they ever did, I love the old hymns and they do a really good job on them. You can download all the songs on the Hymns album for free over here .
4 - The Dad Horse Experience
The worlds only Keller-Gospel (basement gospel) band! You have never heard anything quite like the Dad Horse Experience before. A one man band which features a thick German accent, banjo, bass pedal and kazoo. Yeah you are just going to have to go and listen to it. He is a bit of a controversial entry to this list because he sometimes says some naughty words. I don't know if it's because English is clearly not his first language or because his past was just super dodgy (it was) and there is still some rough edges on this diamond to smooth out. His album "Dead dog on a highway" is brilliant although this song off the first album is great as well.
5 - Dustin Kensrue
Formerly of the band Thrice, Kensrue's solo work is a lot more toned down. He has just released a new worship album called the Water and the Blood which apart from one or two songs is a bit too churchy for me. But his 2007 release Please come Home was an absolute masterpiece. He managed to convey that honesty that I was speaking about in Justin Townes Earles music and its just a great album to sit down and really really listen to.
Some other artists worth a mention would be Showbread, Sons of Korah, Theocracy and The Frozen Ocean. Go check them out and maybe you find something that you can enjoy.
PS - Does anyone else feel similarly about mainstream CCM music or is there just something wrong with me?