The One21 Essential 100 Pt.7

essential100 copy

The One21 Essential 100 is a collection of albums that represent the best in creativity, innovation, and originality in music. This is not a “best of” list, nor is it influenced by album sales, or even popularity. Our attempt with this series is to highlight the gems, those rare albums that push boundaries and encourage new ways of thinking; both musical and philosophically. In our opinion, the music highlighted in this series is the “good stuff”.

Simply what this is going to be is a list of 100 albums from Christian music artists that we think you should own. Like our website, most genres will be represented, and some of the albums will be from as far back as the 60s, to as current as 2009. Each week we will post five albums, in no real order, with descriptions, album artwork, and places to buy the music.

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Check out Pt.6

moby play
Play
Moby

1999
Buy this album: Amazon, iTunes
Having already established himself as one of the best house DJs of all time, Moby’s 1999 album, Play, introduced the world to a very different kind of electronic artist. Utilizing his ability to not only piece together complicated beats with melody, Moby turned to the collected field recordings of Alan Lomax to give his music an older world feel. He sampled from the recordings, and built many of the songs on Play around single folk and blues choruses, while also lending to the mood of the songs with every electronic weapon he had (synth strings, layered beats, tone warping). It was a big risk, because while Moby was known, he was not known for music like this. He was blending the lines of traditional electronic music and traditional….well music.

The gambled paid off, and Play is still the best selling album in his genre. While he had been a big name in his field, Play turned Moby into a star. Even more than 10 years later, Play’s influence can be felt on almost every movie soundtrack, commercial, or background music in a TV show. This is in part to the fact that the music on Play is REALLY GOOD, but there is also something that Moby did with Play that no one had ever done before in electronic music. Moby celebrated with Play; he took old, barely listenable recordings and made them sound how he heard them in his head and in his heart. He made electronic organic for an entire culture, and the possibilities for music, old and new, endless.
Highlights: Honey, Run On, Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?

Jeremy Enigk- Return Of The Frog Queen
Return Of The Frog Queen
Jeremy Enigk

1996
Buy this album: Amazon, iTunes
Return Of The Frog Queen is a solo album recorded by Jeremy Enigk just after he converted to Christianity; this conversion had brought on the disbanding of the genre-defining Sunny Day Real Estate. It has a slower and quieter sound than Sunny Day Real Estate’s hard driving post-hardcore style. With the ambitious and fervent Return Of The Frog Queen, the former Sunny Day Real Estate frontman plays everything from guitar and drums to harpsichord. Then he surrounds himself with a strings, woodwinds, and brass. Lyrically, Jeremy Enigk explores the new world he has found in his faith; musically, he strays from pretty pop to a kind of sober psychedelia. Ultimately, he clearly feels the need to make a grand statement.

Jeremy Enigk chooses a really remarkable path, taking his highly dramatic, angst-ridden singing to a totally new sound. Here he favors harshly played acoustics. On top of that Enigk lassos a whole orchestra to flesh out the background of each song! A truly remarkable work that has done the unthinkable, Return Of The Frog Queen breaks new ground yet remains a direct hit, with the passion, power, and rage of punk; the simple, appealing babbling of folk; and even the multidimensional, nasty din of modern Russian classical Jeremy Enigk creates a stunning work that influences rock and Christian music for the next decade.
Highlights: Shade And The Black Hat, Return Of The Frog Queen, Explain

Buddy Miller-Universal House Of Prayer
Universal House Of Prayer
Buddy Miller

2004
Buy this album:Amazon, iTunes
In 2004, Americana icon Buddy Miller ripped open his shirt to reveal the heart of a devout Christian, steeped in God’s love and greatly troubled by the evil all around him. With Universal House of Prayer, he has created a masterpiece where modern Americana meets traditional roots country meets gospel meets soul meets blues in a breathtaking gumbo of Biblical teaching and universal Truth for humans and society alike.

The CD is full of meaty lyrics by Buddy Miller, Bob Dylan, Mark Heard and several others like these from the amazing song “Don’t Wait”: “Now I’m praying for strength, To get one last try, From mercy’s cup to drink, Before it’s time to die, And all the wicked they best, Start to change their ways. Don’t wait don’t wait, Don’t wait it’s late, Don’t wait don’t wait.”

If you like country wrap this around yourself like an old coat and, if you don’t, buy it anyway and dance to this music. If you are a believer, take comfort from these lyrics and if you are not, find yourself in his observations on our society today. Universal House of Prayer is Buddy Miller’s masterpiece and one of the greatest alt-country and Christian records ever made.
Highlights: There’s A Higher Power, Don’t Wait, Worry Too Much

My Brightest Diamond- Bring Me The Workhorse
Bring Me The Workhorse
My Brightest Diamond

2006
Buy this album: Amazon, iTunes
If I were to tell you a classically trained operatic vocalist who makes indie rock that sounds a lot like Portishead made an album that I consider one of the best of the decade, would you listen to it? That description is a little hard to fathom, I know, but that is the truth of Shara Worden (aka My Brightest Diamond)’s 2006 album, Bring Me The Workhorse. Everything about this album is both haunting and beautiful at the same time. Shara’s voice leads the slow-trudging songs through a bleak landscape of smoke filled jazz, spastically progressive indie rock, and 90s esque trip-hop. Each song stands on its own, yet somehow always seems to lead into the next, like a movie who’s scenes were all shot by a different director.

The focal point is, of course, Shara’s unique voice. While you can tell she is always in control of the next note, there are hints of fear on the tail end of her words, almost as if she is not quite sure where the melody will end up next. At times deep and powerful, and at others light and fragile, Shara’s voice is what makes Bring Me The Workhorse so special. It is what makes My Brightest Diamond so special. If this is the only masterwork that voice ever produces, this would be enough, because it is just that. A masterwork.
Highlights: Golden Star, We Were Sparkling, Disappear

project 86 drawing the black lines
Drawing Black Lines
Project 86

2000
Buy this album: iTunes
If you cant understand the power of Drawing Black Lines by the first 30 seconds of the opening track, then you may want to check your pulse. In 2000, Project 86, a four piece monster out of California, separated themselves from the “rapcore” stigma by creating an album so original that people couldn’t figure out what to call it, and yet familiar enough that most considered it an instant classic upon first listen. By breaking down the elements of their rhythmic vocals, massively heavy rock sound, and deeply interesting lyrics, Project 86 reinvented themselves in a way most bands can only dream of. Drawing Black Lines was every bit an aggressive, angry album as their self-titled debt, but melody and focus refined the band’s sound into a completely unique creative force that could not be reckoned with.

The album is perfectly balanced too; while there are plenty of 100 mph hard rock song (Steins Theme, One Armed Man, Sad Machines), there are also many songs that relish in their low build, and low to feel every part before the elements come together in a song. Possibly one of the best examples of this is “P.S.”, clocking in as the longest on song on the album at almost 6 minutes, it is a perfect lesson in build and release in a song, and leaves you gasping for breathe at the end. Combine all this with the brilliant lyrical and vocal stylings of Andrew Schwab, and you have a hard rock album that never disappoints. Another word to describe it may be brilliant, but I think it might come up short.

Speaking personally, listening to this album as a junior in high school was what made me realize that “Christian music” didn’t have to be bad rip offs of mainstream music, but when done like Drawing Black Lines, it could be MUCH better than anything played on the radio. In a way, this is the album that started the idea for The ONE21 Music.
Highlights: One-Armed Man (Play On), P.S., Me Against Me, Chimes

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