And then I will be something perfect in your eyes: My Top 20 Falling Up Songs

Here’s an absolutely awful pitch for a band you’re trying to get someone into: “Hey, these guys were childhood friends of another band that you hate with every fiber of your being!” It’s no small miracle that I became a fan of Falling Up in the first place, given how much that little fun fact was bandied about in their promotional details and by Christian radio deejays when the band first debuted. Even for a Christian rock band that was trying to do something more creative and conceptual than their own marketing gave them credit for at the time, I definitely couldn’t have predicted that these guys would have gone on to become one of my favorite bands. Or that they would break up not once, but twice, both times right after delivering one of their weirdest and most wonderful records. Strange as it may seem, the more niche this band’s audience became, the better off they were.

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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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I’m not sure all these people understand: My Top 20 R.E.M. Songs

If I were to make a list of favorite bands, and sort them by the amount of time it took me from first hearing them to realizing they were one of my favorites, R.E.M. would easily be one of the farthest entries down on that list. It took me forever to truly feel like I was a fan, and not just one of those casual listeners who knew a few of their hit singles and wrote the rest off as largely uninteresting. Sadly, right around the time I finally realized I was falling in love with a myriad of songs from all across their discography, was when the group decided to disband. I guess the old adage “better late than never” is still true… but man, if I had the chance to go back in time and experience some of their best songs and albums when they were still new, I’d take it in a heartbeat.

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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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Memories as Heavy as a Stone: My Top 20 Paper Route Songs

Some bands are really good at breaking your heart, or at least at letting you know what it’s like to have your heart utterly and completely broken. Some bands are really good at helping you pick up the pieces and put that heart back together. Paper Route was one of the rare bands that I felt was excellent at both sides of that equation. And now they’ve gone and broken my heart by disappearing on an “indefinite hiatus”, just when I felt they were at the top of their game and poised to break out to a larger audience. I didn’t think at the beginning of 2019 when I started picking all-time favorite artists of mine who were currently inactive to feature in these monthly retrospective “Top 20” columns, that Paper Route would end up being one of them. We may have an unexplained absence to mourn, but at least we’ve got a phenomenal Absence to look back on.

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Each Word Ringing True, As If Written for You: My Top 20 Out of the Grey Songs

Do you remember the first album you ever deliberately sat down and listened to all the way through? I certainly do. It was Out of the Grey‘s self-titled 1991 debut. And it turned out to be a record that imprinted itself upon me so deeply, it would come to shape my perception of what “the perfect pop album” should sound like.

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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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