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Six Christian Bands You Should Pay Attention To (And one Oldie)

April 6, 2012
  1. Gungor

    In the future, historians of Christian rock/”pop” music will mark a change in its evolution, a change that came in the late 00s and early 10s, where Christian music ceased to be the domain of soundalike bands marketing themselves to surly highschoolers whose parents won’t let them listen to Breaking Benjamin. And they will mark it primarily because of this band. In almost one fell swoop, Gungor has changed Christian music from cheesy, friendly, copycat pop to deep serious music. After you’ve heard this, you can’t go back to Kutless again. Or even Casting Crowns, bless their hearts.

         Gungor is one of the first Christian bands I have heard to appeal to a wider audience than the usual punk kid demographic targeted by most other Christian bands. (Skillet, this means you.) Their music is a technically challenging and lyrically worshipful brand of folk-rock, highlighted by the beautiful vocals of the Gungors, (Michael and Lisa), and the impressive instrumental prowess of Michael Gungor. On their Ghosts Upon The Earth album (which is probably going to be my album of the year for 2012), they cover new ground for Christian music–lyrically and musically. It’s both darker and more joyful than any other worship band–don’t expect any cheesy choruses or melodies stolen from Coldplay. Gungor are on their way to becoming the Beatles of Christian music. After this, it will never be the same.

         They also put on a killer live show. Don’t go unless you like bands that are tight with great instrumental breaks.

    Top tracks: “Let There Be,” “Brother Moon,” “You Are The Beauty” from Ghosts Upon The Earth. (The entire album is great; it’s hard to pick just a few tracks.) “Heaven” and “Dry Bones” From Beautiful Things. The song “Beautiful Things,” is very popular, but I don’t think it shows Gungor at anywhere close to their best.

  2. Paper Route

         This band is Christendom’s answer to Coldplay. Maybe. The band takes the idea of the classic American rock and roll band and translates it to a newer, electronic idiom. Every song is catchy, but deep enough to enjoy. The synth-centric rock sound is not something often found in Christian music. Did I mention that their drummer is a beast? Good melodies, thought provoking lyrics, all around solid music–what more do you want?

    Top tracks: “Enemy Among Us,” “Wish,”Good Intentions,” “Lover’s Anthem.” from Absence, “Better Life” from The Peace of Wild Things.

  3. Abandon Kansas

         Probably the first Christian rock band that I enjoyed based off of the strength of their guitar parts. Abandon Kansas writes songs that you can pick up and learn on the guitar. Their style can be described as gritty pop rock–powerful melodies mixed with dirty sounding guitars. Jeremy’s powerful voice propels the songs forward, but it’s Brad’s sweet guitar tones and innovative, lyrical solos that make you come back for more. If the world was anywhere close to sane, this band would be at the top of the charts. They also have one of the best live shows that I’ve seen.

    Top tracks: “Heaven Come My Way,” “Months and Years,” “Close Your Eyes,” “A Conversation With The Sky” from Ad Astra Per Aspera

  4. The Brilliance

    Think of this band as Gungor’s little brother. Literally. The bassist and singer, David Gungor, is Michael Gungor’s brother. This band is the only band that I know of that plays string quartet rock. (with the possible exception of Big Star, but they are considerably more obscure and broke up in the 70s.) The band has a much more meditative sound than is found in much Christian music out there. If you like your Christian music ethereal and soaring, check this out.

    Top Tracks: All of Them

  5. The Ember Days

         Think Gungor reimagined for the I-wear-earings-on-my-face crowd, and that is a close approximation of the Ember Days. The New Zealand group predates Gungor by a few years, I believe, and their music owes a bit more to hardcore than to folk, but they’re still a great band. You can find their music for free at the Come and Live website. Look for the songs where Janell sings lead vocals–she’s one of the best new voices in Christian music.

    Top Tracks, “Dreaming,” Love Song,” Cocoon,” “All My Days” from Your Eyes Light Up, “It Is Well” from the Finger Painting EP.

  6. Young Ocean

    Another new Christian band that draws on the tradition of Radiohead. Young Ocean has a very spacey rock sound, sort of like Radiohead mixed with a little lighter Remy Zero. Their music advances Christian Ambient far beyond its “Let’s go rip off Explosions In the Sky” roots.

    Top Tracks: Haven’t listened enough yet to decide, but you can download their self-titled album at noisetrade.com

  7. (The 77s)

    If REM had collided with the Gish-era Smashing Pumpkins and added in a bit of Led Zeppelin, then they would be a lot like the 77s, only a lot different. One of the few notable Christian bands to emerge from the 90s alternative era, The 77s rocked out with solid music and good lyrics. Their singer’s voice was a bit annoying, but their guitar parts made up for it. And how many bands include track on their album that is a pure snare drum solo?

    Top Tracks: “Indian Winter,” “Cold Cold Night,” “Alone Together,” “For Crying Out Loud” from Drowning With Land In Sight.

    Honorable Mention Bands: Mutemath, House of Heroes, Lovelite, Leagues.

    Artists who are not bands, but who are really sweet: Sandra McCracken, Matthew Perryman Jones

    Current Listening: Butterfly Boucher, The Evolution, The Spring Standard, yellow//gold EP, Young Oceans, Young Oceans, Dave Matthews Band, “Typical Situation,” Leigh Nash, “Kyrie Eleison.”

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Toni permalink
    April 6, 2012 1:06 pm

    Can I take partial credit for your punctuation abilities? I really enjoyed this post as I have been away from the music for so long I don’t have a clue who to listen to and where to find it. You have given me lots to check out over the next few weeks. You are my link to the music, Nick. Thanks for the recommendations.

  2. punicwars55 permalink
    April 6, 2012 3:03 pm

    Great post. Hope you are able to win over the family to Gungor and some of the others when we get home next month. This was all a foreign language to me. I thought I was hip and cool because I listened to Caedmon’s Call, Rich Mullins, Ricky Skaggs, and Ralph Stanley (and to throw in an older band, Wilma Lee and Stony Cooper and all the Clinch Mountain Band). Turns out that I am behind the times for the eleventh million time in my life.

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