2003 was a banner year for Christian music. I had a difficult time sorting through the many excellent albums to choose my favorites. After a lot of consideration, four rose to the top. Why only four? Because everyone else is doing top-five lists and I choose to be different!
A quick note about qualifications. It is difficult to determine what constitutes Christian music, so for my purposes the only qualifications for this list are albums that were released in 2003 and were purchased at a Christian bookstore.
- Derek Webb - She Must And Shall Go Free. Derek Webb broke from Caedmon’s Call in 2003 and released an incredible debut album. Many albums seem to be written, recorded and thrown together. Webb’s album is crafted. Each song builds on the last and blends seamlessly into the next. He builds around the theme of the church and God’s love for and relationship with His people. Brutally honest, wonderfully crafted, Christian music has rarely sounded this good. I wrote an in-depth album review of this one.
- Switchfoot - The Beautiful Letdown. Switchfoot managed to create an album that is powerful, fun and very well-written. Musically the band takes a step forward, further creating their very own niche in a genre full of imitators. There are some good, loud rock songs for the rock crowd and some piano-driven ballads for those looking for pop.
- Dakona - Perfect Change. Outstanding song-writing, great choruses and lots of guitar make this album special. Most of all, this album is just plain fun! Though it contains only very subtle Christian content, this album qualifies for my “best of” because it was purchased at a Christian bookstore.
- Ten Shekel Shirt - Risk. Ten Shekel Shirt’s sophomore album finds the band maturing in their songwriting and musical ability. Though there are not any songs on this album that will find their way into the regular rotation in worship services (like “Ocean” and “Meet With Me” from their first album) the songs maintain a strong Christian theme.
- Petra - Jekyll & Hyde. This album almost made my top 5 list, but realized that if it were not a Petra album it likely would not make that list. It is a great album that welcomes back Bob Hartman, the founder of the band.
- David Crowder Band - Illuminate. A solid album, but it uses far too many computerized sounds. It is also over-produced compared to the raw, live sounds of Crowder we are used to accustomed on the Passion CDs.
- Tait - Lose This Life. After a strong debut Tait takes a step back with this album. The edginess of the first album has been replaced by a more produced, commercial feel.
- Skillet - Collide. I was promised an album that harkened back to their debut album. Instead we got really loud guitars, really loud vocals, really loud synthesizer combining to make a really average album.
- Stuart Townend - Lord of Every Heart. I have several versions of the excellent song In Christ Alone. The one Townend chose to release on this album is atrocious. I simply do not understand how he could release such a poor version of such a powerful song.
2004 looks to be another strong year for Christian music. We can look forward to the long-awaited and oft-rumored Smalltown Poets album, as well as new albums by Pillar, Third Day and Delerious.