Tuesday, December 1, 2009

10 Years; 10 Albums

Here are the ten best albums I bought in the last decade. If you're thinking, "Wait a minute, there's still another year left in this decade. What's he talking about?" please scroll down. All of these albums came out sometime between January 1, 2000 and the present.

The best worship album I have ever bought. Great lyrics, good beats and a cool British accent. Enough said. Also, there is a Facedown DVD that contains live concert footage, Matt Redman talking about how to craft a worship song and a few really good sermons from Louie Giglio.

For some reason, I usually don't listen to girl singers that much. McCracken is the exception. This album is the folk singers twist on several rare hymns. Excellent vocals and good, honest gee-tar playin'.

I grew up on hip hop. Eventually I stumbled upon Christian hip hop. It was bad. At it's best the lyrics were moralistic ("Aint nuttin' in hell I want") and at it's worst it was cheesy ("Praise the Lord, for goodness sake, we gonna take a Bible break").
So I was pleasantly surprised when I found Lecrae. Not only did he have excellent rhyming skills on top of really good beats, but he was doctrinally sound like almost no other musician I've ever heard. Lecrae's job has to be difficult. On one end he has to watch out for the cheese that often accompanies Christian music and on the other end he doesn't have the sex, violence and profanity crutch that rappers like T.I. and Lil' Wayne lean on. On After the Music Stops, Lecrae walks that line perfectly.

I'm not a U2 fan. I don't hate them but I just don't share the enthusiasm that most of their fans have. Before this album, I never owned a full one by U2. For some reason I picked this one up when it came out and I'm glad I did. The lyrics force me to think vertically and the music is really good.

6. Continuum, John Mayer
As a pastor, I think it's important for me to climb inside the heads of non-believers. Reading fiction and listening to well-written music done by non-believers is one of the best ways to do this. Because I spend most of my time studying the Bible and interacting with church folks, it's important for me to ensure that I not become disconnected from the world.
John Mayer is an excellent guitar player and a unique song writer and he displays both of those gifts very well on Continuum. On the song Stop This Train he laments seeing his parents grow old ("one generations length away from finding life out on my own") as well as his own inevitable aging ("I play the numbers game to find a way to say that my life has just begun"). The song is powerful because of it's honesty but also because of what it lacks. There's no gospel. With each well-written line, you are reminded that there is no hope without Jesus. Continuum is not for everyone but is a great album for those interested in good guitar playing, creative song-writing and the perspective of those without Christ.

This is Webb's first and best album. It's as if he was storing up great theological truths during the years that he played in another band and now that he's on his own he gets the chance to let it all out. On this album, Webb lays out the ugliness of his own sin and the beauty of redemption through Christ like few have ever done before. A lot of people took issue with him on this album for calling himself a whore in regards to his personal sin. However, a quick look at the Old Testament prophets will reveal that this is the word of choice for guys like Hosea and Isaiah and even God himself when it comes to man's depravity.

In this concept album, Shai Linne has centered virtually every song around Christ's substitutionary atonement for our sins. Imagine if someone took a big fat theology book, chewed it up and spit it out in the form of rhymes and you'll begin to understand what this album is all about. Shai Linne uses wordplay, samples from great preachers and good beats to present the glory of Jesus Christ taking on the full wrath of God in the place of His people.

Andrew Peterson is probably the best songwriter in the Church right now. I really wanted to put his album Behold, the Lamb of God in this place but it came out a month too early to make this list. This album is just as good. I have never listened to the song The Good Confession without crying.

I don't listen to The Vigilantes of Love because of Bill Mallonee's golden voice. I listen to The Vigilantes of Love because of Mallonee's superb song writing. That skill is displayed on this album perhaps better than any of his others. Only Bill Mallonee can mix in a Martin Luther quote, a Flannery O'Connor reference and a quick mention about a train wreck. He consistently does all of these things in a way that rips the layers off of your heart and forces you to wrestle with your own issues. Much like C.S. Lewis, Mallonee writes in a way that makes me feel like he's been crawling around in my heart for a few years and now he's letting me know what's really there.

Everything I said about Lecrae a few selections earlier applies here even more so. I am fully confident that if Lecrae threw in a few curse words and gun references he would make millions on this album. But thankfully, Lecrae has no desire to go that route. He has a deep rooted love for the church as evidenced by his involvement with a new church plant in Atlanta.
I think the best thing I could say about Rebel is that I bought it over a year ago and immediately put it on the iPod I use for running. Over the past year there have been a lot of musical changes on that iPod. Many songs have come and gone but every song from the Rebel album remains. I just can't seem to get tired of these songs. Now my oldest son is a fan and loves to hear Lecrae in our car. It doesn't get much better than hearing your kid rapping about Jesus while you're out for a drive.

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