They Can’t Define Us Anymore: My Top 20 Gungor Songs

If you’ve never heard of Gungor at all, and your first question upon hearing a song of theirs is, “Is this a Christian band?”, then my answer is: Yes. No. Kinda.

Normally in this monthly column, I’m going to be writing about bands that are defunct, or at the very least have stopped recording and touring for the foreseeable future. Gungor is a curious exception, because there are literally days to go in the band’s farewell tour. A week or so from when I publish this, Gungor as a distinct musical entity will be considered a thing of the past. Its two members, Michael and Lisa Gungor, certainly have plans to continue making music, just not under that name. I’m intrigued to see what these two might cook up with all past constraints and preconceived notions completely gone. I feel like they’ve already done a bang-up job of challenging our assumptions, not just about the kind of music they make but about the parameters that define the Christian faith ourselves, over the years. It seems like now’s as good a time as any to honor the end of an era, and take a (shorter than my usual) walk down memory lane to revisit my favorite songs that the duo have put out in the eight years I’ve considered myself a fan.

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DeVotchKa – This Night Falls Forever: Somewhere back in your memory, there’s a younger, prettier version of me.

Artist: DeVotchKa
Album: This Night Falls Forever
Year: 2018
Grade: A-

In Brief: Ten songs after a seven-year absence might seem like a meager offering from most bands, but DeVotchKa ensures that their long-awaited return is an engrossing and intoxicating listen. The Latin rock influences may not be as pronounced this time around, but the strings, whistling, and other exotic bits of instrumentation all help to give this record an adventurous, otherworldly aura that isn’t easily forgotten. This Night Falls Forever can be a bit of an emotionally intense listen at first, but it’s definitely worth your time.

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Tennis – We Can Die Happy: This “little bit left” goes a long way.

2017_Tennis_WeCanDieHappyEPArtist: Tennis
Album: We Can Die Happy EP
Year: 2017
Grade: A-

In Brief: A worthy companion piece to one of 2017’s most blissful indie pop records. There’s a slight bit more bounce to a few of these, but still, the band could have slipped any of them on to Yours Conditionally and they’d have been right at home.

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Tennis – Yours Conditionally: 40-Love.

2017_Tennis_YoursConditionallyArtist: Tennis
Album: Yours Conditionally
Year: 2017
Grade: B

In Brief: Tennis has a laid-back, breezy, sunny sort of indie pop style that feels like a less gloomy, more innocent Beach House. It’s an easy sound to fall in love with, though the lack of variance in tone and tempo can start to get repetitive toward the album’s end.

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Gungor – One Wild Life: Body – We’ve come a long way, we keep on evolving.

2016_gungor_onewildlifebodyArtist: Gungor
Album: One Wild Life: Body
Year: 2016
Grade: B

In Brief: While Soul still has the highest concentration of my personal favorite songs from the One Wild Life trilogy, the sheer ambition of Body and the stylistic ground covered here is hard to ignore. It’s a brave, albeit imperfect and somewhat awkwardly paced, album from a band that continues to challenge the notion of what “Christian music” should be about.

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Gungor – One Wild Life: Spirit – Consonance isn’t always peaceful. Dissonance isn’t always evil.

2016_Gungor_OneWildLife_SpiritArtist: Gungor
Album: One Wild Life: Spirit
Year: 2016
Grade: B-

In Brief: While more upbeat and rhythmic than its predecessor Soul, Gungor stumbles slightly in the lyrics department here by being a little too vague about their spirituality at times while being a little too didactic when they get more specific. I don’t disagree with anything they’ve got to say here; I just question whether this is the best way to present these thoughts in musical form.

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Gungor – One Wild Life: Soul – You cannot love in moderation.

2015_Gungor_OneWildLifeSoulArtist: Gungor
Album: One Wild Life: Soul
Year: 2015
Grade: B

In Brief: At times immediate and delightful, and at times slow, cerebral and perplexing, the opening chapter in Gungor’s new trilogy of albums celebrates the gift of life and the sense of loving unity that should be felt when Christians are at their best, at times coming back around to embrace the “contemporary worship” tag we once applied to their music, while still challenging the norms of that genre in fascinating ways.

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