Had to walk the rocks to see the mountain view: My Top 20 Caedmon’s Call Songs

The mid-to-late 1990s seemed like an absolutely fantastic time for just about any Christian rock band with an acoustic guitar. At least that’s how it looked to me, a college kid eager to broaden his musical horizons, who at the time still limited himself to only Christian music, but who was hungry for more “alternative” forms of it than the straight-up pop/rock he had mostly gotten into at that point. While Jars of Clay was definitely the band that kicked off my fascination with more folk-influenced forms of alternative pop and rock, another band soon followed, with a huge folk/rock sound driven by no less than three lead vocalists and a formidable rhythm section, and some incredibly thoughtful and literate lyrics, and they managed to almost as big of a household name within the CCM world. That band was Caedmon’s Call.

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All Heaven Is Ringing: My Top 20 David Crowder Band Songs

You’ve probably observed by this point that most of the bands I’ve covered in this monthly Top 20 series have some relationship, whether direct or tangential, to the world of Contemporary Christian Music. While my musical tastes are much more diverse today, I’m open to hearing a variety of viewpoints beyond my own, and most of the artists I currently listen to who are Christians tend to operate largely outside the confines of the CCM industry, I can’t hide the fact that Christian rock is in my DNA, and a lot of my longest-running favorite bands came from that world. Most of these bands were known for at least trying to challenge the status quo in ways that sometimes made their religious audiences uncomfortable, and that I applauded them for. But the David Crowder Band might be the lone exception on this list, since they’ve always belonged to the niche-within-a-niche known as “praise and worship”, and I don’t think anyone’s ever felt the need to put a qualifier on it when describing them as “Christian rock”. What makes the David Crowder Band unique in my personal pantheon of favorite bands is that they managed to beat the odds and win me over despite being a worship band at a time when I was really starting to get cynical about the whole idea of worship bands in general.

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This Is My Call, to Sing the Melodies of You: My Top 20 Sixpence None the Richer Songs (and Top 5 Covers)

“There’s more to Sixpence than Kisses and Covers.”

I’m pretty sure I used that rather defensive statement as a review title at some point. Can you blame me? It’s one hell of a dilemma that a fan of a band faces, when they have some really great material in their back catalogue, some of it thrillingly dark and moody, and some of it surprisingly fragile and reverent, and suddenly they put a twee love song on their newest album and it becomes a sleeper hit a few years later. And you really, really love that song, and are happy that people have finally heard of this band that felt like one of your best kept secrets up until that point… but then comes the inevitable pressure to follow it up. And the record label doesn’t quite know what to do with the rest of the songs on their record. And the band starts releasing cover songs in an attempt to stay relevant, and then things just get super weird. That’s the story of Sixpence None the Richer in a nutshell. And it’s a sadder and more tragic one than you’d likely expect from a band who showed that much potential.

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Crowder – I Know a Ghost: Is it time to “ghost” an old favorite?

Artist: Crowder
Album: I Know a Ghost
Year: 2018
Grade: C

In Brief: There’s too much material, and a distressing amount of it is rather bland. I’ll always admire Crowder’s penchant for mashing up different genres into his own unique little worship service, but he’s starting to do it in ways that feel a bit cliched, in light of these things not being considered risky in modern pop music for some time now.

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Wye Oak – The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs: Did you say that life could be better? Or do you only live to be seen as such?

Artist: Wye Oak
Album: The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs
Year: 2018
Grade: B+

In Brief: While it’s tricky to categorize genre-wise, this album manages to be equal parts energizing, soothing, and challenging, thanks to the dynamic of intricate percussion, stunning synths and keyboards, and occasionally noisy guitars that this duo has going for them. And digging into their cryptic lyrics reveals a bit of existential angst tempered with wisdom and patience. File this one under “How did I not know that this band existed for the last four albums?!”

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I’m With Her – See You Around: Hey, it’s a better band name than “Make Americana Great Again”.

Artist: I’m With Her
Album: See You Around
Year: 2018
Grade: B-

In Brief: A smart but subdued folk/bluegrass record from an all-female trio that at times appears to be holding back the full power of their vocal harmonies and songwriting skills. This took a while for me to fully get into, but I can now say that I’m with I’m With Her.

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Sucré – In Pieces: In which a side project gets shoved suspiciously into the spotlight

Artist: Sucré
Album: In Pieces EP
Year: 2018
Grade: A-

In Brief: These three new songs hint at an exciting “next level” for a side project of former Eisley and MuteMath members Stacy DuPree-King and Darren King that is now apparently the main musical gig for each. I’m really hoping this exciting little morsel is just an appetizer for a full album to come, because I’d hate to think they left their other respective bands only to put out stuff like this on rare occasions.

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