Take Me To Church: Indie Worship
Growing up with Christian parents and going to church, I was constantly surrounded by religious music – mainly old hymns with such outdated language the meaning was lost and repetitive worship songs that were meant to be uplifting but only felt monotonous and boring. Thankfully my teenage years happened to coincide with the golden era of Christian metal, where I could listen to bands like Underoath, Norma Jean and The Devil Wears Prada and tell my parents, “But they’re screaming about God!” That genre is still going strong, with bands like Silent Planet and August Burns Red carrying the torch and there’s since been a rise in Christian hip-hop as well, with artists like Lecrae and Andy Mineo. (Check out any artist signed on Solid State Records and Reach Records for some other examples of Christian metal and hip-hop.)
I’m no expert in the history of worship music, but it seems that the popularity of Hillsong United – everyone’s heard Oceans by now (and it’s still a great song) – has paved the way for several other indie-leaning Christian musicians to find success. I thought I’d share a few examples of artists doing creative worship music really well (I’m almost hesitant to use the “worship” label, as I’m sure even listeners who don’t share the same beliefs can find something to relate to in these tracks).
Best known for being the lead singer and songwriter of Thrice, Dustin Kensrue’s been putting out solo music for a while now. His lyrics in Thrice have always included Christian themes and biblical references, but are put in the forefront of his own music.
I’d recommend any song by Kings Kaleidoscope (the live version of Felix Culpa is amazing), but I’m including this song because it’s the only Christian song I’ve seen on Spotify that comes with an “explicit” warning. In a state of raw vulnerability, vocalist Chad Gardner cries:
Will I fall or will I misstep? Will I call You with my last breath? Will You be there for me after? Will I waste inside the silence, where the fear is fucking violent? Wicked sinner thrown to lions, with no hope on the horizon
Too often Christian music is painted as simply praising God, or lovey-dovey “how great thou art” hand-waving. But this song shows the reality of life and the struggle of faith. A lot of respect for the band for writing this, which has (unsurprisingly) been quite controversial in the Christian community.
Ascend the Hill
I haven’t heard anything quite like Ascend the Hill’s 2009 self-titled album – the perfect balance of energy, ambience, passion and artistry. I’d recommend the entire album (and their later album, which features modern covers of older hymns) but this song in particular always gives me chills:
John Mark McMillan
I’m sharing the live version of this song because it sounds just as good as – if not better than – the original.
Citizens & Saints
These guys wouldn’t sound out of place on any modern indie or folk radio station. Here’s one of the stand-out tracks from their latest album:
If you’re interested in more music like this, check out my Indie Worship playlist on Spotify: