J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, once wrote, “If you cannot teach me to fly, teach me to sing.” Music has that all-encompassing allure, doesn’t it?
Well, the right music does! Everyone has their tastes and preferences when it comes to music and, usually, some pretty clear feelings about what is complete garbage. Rap? Country? R&B? Hip hop? Classical. Jazz? Big Band? Oldies? Gospel? Christian contemporary? Praise and worship? How do you feel about KLOVE?
Do you listen to Christian music radio at all? Think about that--you probably have a well-thought out reason why you do--or don’t!
When it comes to Christian music, specifically, a lot has happened in the past 100 years! The Christian world went from an old-timey piano and hymns to Toby Mac and P.O.D.
As new artists cropped up, the inevitable comparisons to what the world was producing because of the norm. “She’s like a Christian Lady Gaga” or “He’s Lil’ Wayne--but for Jesus!” Christians have long struggled to find their own place without the comparison to musicians “in the world” who everyone thought were “better”.
Once upon a time, you were either “Christian” singer because every word was about Jesus or you were everyone else and people were questioning your faith. But now? Thanks to YouTube, blogs, podcasts, Facebook, Amazon and other social media and production platforms, Christians who write music are everywhere and doing everything they want to.
The good news is that there is a lot to choose from. The bad news is that there is a lot to choose from.
In a world where variety is the spice of life, no list could ever be complete, but here are six Christian bands you may not have heard of, who are worth the listen:
1. The Royal Royal
This band is made up of two brothers--pastor’s kids no less--Gabriel and Nathan Finochio, who hail from Ontario, Canada, and have a style that blends 80’s electric pop with synthesizers, great beats with melodies that are easy to sing to.
Scriptural, worshipful and clearly in awe of the Lord’s great love and power, The Royal Royal is unapologetically God-focused and yet without the cheesy wincing of the low-hanging Christian clichés a lot of Christian music gets accused of.
What’s the difference? In a word, energy. In two words, spiritual energy. Gabriel and Nathan speak openly about their passion for the Lord and it translates in their music mixed with a high energy, electric style that makes you forget that your spirit just got refreshed.
Song to start with: “Champion.”
2. Rivers & Robots
This British worship band from Manchester, UK features some very chill faith-based music complete with banjos, guitars and piano as well as a lot of added creativity. With a range of evocative, emotional music that is both calming and meditative, many of their songs will probably make you want to sip coffee, stare out the window and contemplate the deeper things.
Rivers & Robots refer to themselves as “creative worship” saying they’ve committed to living as “missionaries, and spending their time leading worship in churches, clubs and festivals, and hosting monthly worship nights. If you’re looking for straight up coffeehouse vibes with lyrics that exalt the Word with a natural poetry and an easy rhythm, they’re yours.
Song to start with: "Dreams."
3. Loud Harp
This indie-worship band grew out of a worship weekend with friends and kept going.
Their music is filled with an atmospheric sense, ethereal and with longing and passion, sometimes mournful and yet filled with hope. Much like the Psalms. Much like life.
Speaking of the Psalms, Loud Harp’s sophomore album “Asaph” is taken right from the songs of Asaph, one of King David’s chief musicians and a writer of many of the Psalms in the Bible.
While Loud Harp is overt in their use of the Word of God as the foundation for many of their songs and the fact that they are, absolutely, singing about their need for and love of the Lord, but the indie style makes it feel like anyone could listen and appreciate their cool, raspy voices and haunting strains of rock ballads- to the Savior.
Songs to start with: “The Nearness of You (73).”
4. Young Oceans
Arguably the most appealing to music lovers on both sides of the cross, the music from Young Oceans is artsy and meditative, but with the sort of lyrics that make you stop and think. Their style is known in the music world as “art rock” and features a lot of driving electric guitar and beats that make you move without realizing it.
The group originated as a project with a collective of artists associated with Trinity Grace Church in New York City and features a wide range of styles, parts deeply meditative and parts. While not everyone will appreciate their “high-end poetry” in some of the lyrics of their songs, they’re worth a listen if you’re searching for fresh tunes and looking for something different while sticking to the alternative spiritual rock anthems style.
Their album “Advent” is predominantly instrumental ambiance with a few lyrics sprinkled here and there, perfect for keeping the atmosphere peaceful while you work or pray or drive, with just a tinge of grunge to keep things cool.
Song to start with: “Suddenly.”
This are-they-or-aren’t-they “Christian” alternative rock band has resisted the label of being called a “Christian” band, however, each of its members has noted in the past that their music is heavily inspired by their Christian roots.
In fact, much of their music features the thoughts and wanderings of people who have explored both sides of the equation and have found the answer--although it is often hidden within their true-to-life writing style. Hailing from New Orleans, Mutemath has a blend of Rhodes keyboards, synthesizers and even a keytar making their style of music fresh and different than run-of-the-mill rock.
With heavy rock and pop sounds, Mutemath’s music is typically high energy, exciting and fast-paced, although when they slow down, they do what all good rock bands do- write powerful ballads.
While you might not sit down and do your devotions while listening to Mutemath, you might put them one and get up and dance or go for a run when you’re done.
Song to start with: “You are Mine.”
6. The Digital Age
If you liked the David Crowder Band, you’ll love The Digital Age, because it features four of the original six band members although the sound is distinct and more electric.
This indie band out of Waco, Texas, has, well, a digital sound with electronic-stylings, deep bass and soulful songs that range from deeply personal heart’s cries to Scripturally solid, faith-building poetry to overtly worshipful songs of power and presence.
Toss into the mix some digital-electronic covers of well-known hymns and popular Christian songs and you’ve got a playlist to start the morning and last the day.
One of the great things about The Digital Age is that their experience as songwriters, plus the complexity and layering of styles means that the songs they produce feel unique and different, but maintain a flow between each one that is both interesting and entertaining.
The Digital Age is a nice break from straight-up worship, but their lyrics are still really worshipful and will keep you Christ-focused without all the sappy me-centered, God-themed poetry more mainstream Christian music tends to churn out.
Song to start with: “Captured."
Bonus: If you find yourself constantly looking for fresh Christian music that doesn’t’ feel cheesy and has a range of musical styles, lyrical-focuses, instrumentation, beats and backgrounds, check out The Good Christian Music Blog and put on one of their hand-picked playlists. They’re constantly showcasing music across a wide range of Christian genres- some more well-known, some independently produced and others that no one has ever heard of.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Akshar Dave
Alicia Purdy is a full-time writer, musician, and speaker with an M.A. in Journalism. She is the host of “Living Out Loud!”, a weekly radio show broadcast at the ALIVE Radio Network in upstate NY. You can learn more about Alicia’s work including her book, The Way of the Worshipper, catch up on “Living Out Loud” episodes and subscribe to free devotionals at her blog: TheWayoftheWorshipper.com. Her passion is to write about real life and a real faith in a real Jesus to inspire, encourage and entertain people from all walks of life. Alicia and her husband have 5 kids ranging from 20 years old all the way down to 4 - and 1 cat, named Chester. You can find and follow Alicia on Facebook and Instagram. She welcomes questions and discussion. You can reach out via email at The Way of the Worshipper. If you meet her in person, she will most likely try and wipe you down with essential oils and then ask if you want to grab a coffee.