WARNING!!! This top 10 list is a personal memoir, not a conclusive list.
5. Further Seems Forever: Hide Nothing
In the summer of 2004 I was laid off from a job I was working at a camp in B.C. I left the camp for Edmonton to visit my girlfriend. We ended up breaking up in less than 24 hours.
I left Edmonton with a college friend for California which turned into a month-long passive-aggressive non-argument.
One of the only bright lights of that summer was passing through Seattle. Seattle is the home of Tooth and Nail Records, home to all of my favourite Christian Rock bands. We drove to the offices. It was like coming to Mecca. We arrived at lunch time and the place was empty.
We finally found someone. They were on the phone.
*swivels around without answering
So we gave ourselves a tour. We walked through the offices and the back catalog section. I marveled at the birthplace of my favourite albums as we sifted through their back-catalog. We finally found the mail-order guy. He let us have as many stickers and posters as we wanted.
One of the posters was for Further Seems Forever’s album Hide Nothing. After the trip I moved to Regina and lived in my sister’s basement where I wrote my first novel. The words “Hide Nothing” were my guide. I’ve tried to make it a guideline in writing and life since. When I eventually bought the album, I wasn’t disappointed.
Track that holds up: For All We Know
4. mewithoutyou: It’s All Crazy It’s All False It’s All A Dream It’s All Right
Even though I haven’t really listened to much Christian Rock since 2007 my family still buys me the newest Christian Rock albums every Christmas. Usually, it’s horrible. But 2009 was a winner.
mewithoutyou thinks this is the worst album they ever made. This proves that an artist can be an unfit critic of their own art.
The band is made up of two brothers and their friends. The brothers grew up in a Sufi-Muslim household with parents who had converted from Judaism and Christianity. The two sons are Christians themselves. This makes for some very interesting music. Its storytelling delves into fables and accounts from all three religions.
My wife Carrie and I listened to the album together with the lyric book in hand. On the drive home from Christmas, we even planned an entire stage show for the album. (It’s still in pre-production.)
Track Favourite: King Beetle on A Coconut Estate
3. johnny Q. public: Extra*Ordinary
When going back and listening to these Christian Rock albums again I was shocked at how dated everything sounded. I thought songs like Bodybe on this album were timeless. I saw Christian music as standing outside the limitations of fads. This band sounds like a born-again Nirvana. Oh well.
Track that holds up: Serve Somebody (Bob Dylan cover)
2. Jars of Clay
Jars of Clay was kind of on the fringe of this whole scene. They were the band that wasn’t as cool because of how popular they were. When you became a new Christian in the 90s they gave you a pocket-sized New Testament and this album.
There was this legendary Christian music fan that lived in a hamlet outside of Red Deer, Ryan Rodabough.
This is his collection of Christian rock CDs
He was rumored to have every cool Christian music CD ever made, even the discontinued 7ball Gas collections. He always bought through mail order and some Christian record labels mistook him for a Christian book store.
The story goes that Ryan mail-ordered the full box set of Jars of Clay If I Left the Zoo. It included the CD, Vinyl, a DVD and a book. When it arrived in the mail he instantly regretted it and mailed it back with a letter explaining how purchasing a Jars of Clay album was a huge mistake.
The only reason I gave Jars of Clay a chance is because there was a girl in my youth group who loved them, Regina Maxwell. She even got our youth pastor to do a Jars of Clay themed Bible study. I was not able to convince him to do a Training For Utopia themed Bible study.
I was convinced Regina also liked me and it was confirmed when she lent me her psychology notes to study. They were littered with hearts with the letter D inside them. I liked the romance of this secret message and I drew a couple of hearts with a R inside as a secret message back. Turns out, she had a crush on a guy named Doug. Embarrassing at the time BUT I’m thankful to her for warming me up to Jars of Clay.
Track still holds up: Worlds Apart
1. Brave Saint Saturn: The Light Of Things Hoped For
Brave Saint Saturn was a Five Iron Frenzy side-project. Reese Roper, Five Iron Frenzy’s lead singer and principal songwriter, was engaged and dumped three times. He wrote songs to cope with the heart ache and Five Iron Frenzy didn’t want whiny songs clogging up their discography. So they created Brave Saint Saturn as a dumping ground for Reese Roper’s agony.
Reese Roper was a personal hero of mine. I have met him twice and neither time went well. Reese Roper has a reputation for hating his fame. He doesn’t sign autographs and he gets uncomfortable if you fan-freak. Every Reese Roper fan knows that if you meet Reese you have to play it cool.
The first time I met him was because I had gone to see Five Iron Frenzy at their last Cornerstone Music Festival appearance. I heard that Brave Saint Saturn was playing an impromptu show on a smaller stage. I ran all the way there. When I got there I saw Brooke. Brooke was this girl that I had been best friends with for 6 years. We kind of had a Dawson/Joey thing going where we were one pathetic DTR talk (in a Spielberg-postered nerd den) from changing everything and addressing our adolescent tension.
But a month before the festival we had stopped hanging out because she chose to be with the shop class teacher’s son and I was silently protesting.
I didn’t even know that Brooke had planned to fly to a field in the middle-of-nowhere-Illinois to attend the festival but there she was with her boyfriend in tow. He listened to Eminem and Dave Matthews. He hated Christian music and his girlfriend’s attachment to Reese Roper. We had both missed the impromtu Brave Saint Saturn show but looked across to behind the tent where Reese Roper himself was sorting band t-shirts from a box with his back to us. I just kind of looked at his back for a while, mesmerized by the shoulder blades of the great mind that had penned my favourite songs and challenged my theology and social values.
While I was still devising a plan for approaching the notoriously fan-shy Reese Roper I heard Brooke’s boyfriend yell:
He rolled his eyes and turned back around. If I ever meet him again I’ll tell him that my firstborn son is named after Reese Witherspoon.
When I was at Briercrest Bible College in 2001 there were a lot of people from Northern California in my dorm. They would often talk about a guy named Matt Estrella. He had a rare genetic disease called Neurofibromatosis 2 that developed numerous tumors around his nervous system. People loved him and loved telling stories about him. A few things that always stuck out in the stories were his great faith, his graciousness (especially with reactions to his disease) and how funny he was. He often poked fun at people and how his disability made them uncomfortable, which strangely, would make them comfortable.
He was notorious for his first impressions. One story was that he convinced a gullible someone he had just met that part of his condition was that he didn’t urinate.
“I sweat it out!” he said.
Reese Roper was also very touched by his life and wrote a song about him for this album when he passed away in 2003.
I consider it the best song Reese Roper ever wrote.
I change my mind. Under Bridges is the best song Reese Roper ever wrote.
Nope. His best song is New Years Eve:
Or… maybe Banner Year:
Or You Can’t Handle This?
It’s definitely It Was Beautiful
Or Every New Day
I don’t know. He wrote a lot of good songs.