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year end review's Best Contemporary Christian Albums of 2004

By Jennifer E. Jones Producer After much research, listening, debate, and threats of a possible mutiny, highlights the best Christian music released in 2004. It was a year for debut albums and musical risk-taking. Revolting against the pop worship trend of last year, some of the artists got radical with their adoration. Certain sounds matured while others continued to hit perfection right on target. Here is the best that 2004 had to offer:


'Share the Well' Share the Well

by Caedmon's Call
When founding member Derek Webb left Caedmon’s Call in 2003 to go solo, people wondered where the group would go from there. Needless to say, there is nothing to worry about. On the tail end of mission trips in Brazil and India, Cliff and Danielle Young and friends took away more than souvenirs. An essence of the cultures is caught in every song on Share the Well. This world music sound turns the album into an international adventure with great songs such as “There’s Only One (Holy One)”.


'Bethany Dillon' Bethany Dillon

by Bethany Dillon
The void left by Jennifer Knapp’s hiatus was barely felt this year if you picked up a copy of Bethany Dillon’s self-titled debut. She earns brownie points for being a fantastically talented singer/songwriter at the tender age of 15. On the album, Dillon looks at her spiritual journey through young but mature eyes. She struggles with her body image in “Beautiful” and writes a sacred love song in “For My Love”. A bold cover of Amy Grant’s “Lead Me On” could convince any critic that this youngster will be around for a while.



by Relient K
If you love this Gotee Records release, you’re not alone. These boys moved 51,000 copies of mmhmm within its first week - - challenging veteran Michael W. Smith’s new album. And with the no. 1 rock hit “Be My Escape,” Relient K upped the ante. Their maturity shines through their fourth album, while their tongue-in-cheek humor still keeps you laughing.


'James Clay'James Clay

by James Clay
At 22 years old, Clay saw more troubles than most of us could imagine. But he took his turbulent youth and turned it into pure musical magic. James Clay is a rarity -- both eclectic and enrapturing. He mixes rock and reggae while lyrically pushing you closer to what it means to truly thirst after righteousness. The cover of The Call’s “I Still Believe” kicks the album in high gear along with “One at a Time” and the radio pop hit “Franklin Park”.


'The Other Side of Something'The Other Side of Something

By Sara Groves
Arguably, one of the most underrated singer/songwriters in Christian music today, Sara Groves dug deep for her fourth album. The Other Side of Something offers her quizzical view of living life between the simple and the divine. Songs such as “The Boxer” and “Jeremiah” are lyrically dense and will have you putting this album on repeat. Simply listen to the third track, “Compelled”, where she writes a personal mantra, “What a relief it is to know / I’m a slave to Christ / Of all the masters I have known / I’m compelled to live this life.”


'Where Do We Go From Here' Where Do We Go From Here

by Pillar
We can’t always define success by crossing over into the mainstream but a group that seamlessly spans both secular and Christian charts deserves some recognition. Pillar first caught national attention with 2003’s Fireproof, a fusion of rap metal. This year, without a hint of compromise, Where Do We Go From Here emphasized the rock and tackled tough issues like pornography. The combination pushed them to the top of the charts with the big crossover hit “Bring Me Down”.

'Rachel Lampa' Rachel Lampa

by Rachel Lampa
Sigh. They grow up so fast. Formerly Christian music’s pop princess, Rachel Lampa tossed her crown and co-wrote the lyrics on this album. Adequately self-titled, Rachel Lampa offers up an introspective look into her emotional, spiritual, and musical maturity. Rachel Lampa has everything from Top 40 to R’n’B as well as high-profile duets with T-Bone and Robert Randolf and the Family Band.


'Wire' Wire

by Third Day
They’ve done it again. After riding the worship wave with Offering II in 2003, Mac Powell and the boys are back to their earthy rock music roots with an album that plays just as easily in a church as it could in a bar. Songs such as “Come on Back to Me” and “You are Mine” keep their Christ-centered message pure and their music consistently appealing. As top ten hit “I Believe” creeps into mainstream radio, Third Day remains true to their call to deliver the gospel to the everyday person.

'Welcome to Diverse City' Welcome to Diverse City

by tobyMac
This city on a hill cannot be hidden and neither can the producer/rapper talents of phenomenon tobyMac. Welcome to Diverse City erases all the genre and color lines, and the result is a blend of eclectic, electric grooves. As if tracks like “The Slam” and no. 1 smash “Gone” aren’t enough, reuniting dcTalk for the remix bonus track “Atmosphere” alone makes this album priceless.

'Take Me Away' Take Me Away

by Sarah Kelly
If you love worship, then you have something in common with Gotee Records newcomer, Sarah Kelly. She’s neither soft-spoken nor subtle about being hopelessly in love with Jesus. Her Grammy nominated Take Me Away is reckless praise with an acoustic edge. And that voice… raspy and earnest, she gives a grittiness to songs that are already amplified. She says it all in “Living Hallelujah” -- “I was born to worship.”

Honorable Mentions

I Owe You by KiKi Sheard
Undone by MercyMe
Hide Nothing by Further Seems Forever

Sleeper Hit of 2004


by Mat Kearney
Kearney is what you might call a late-bloomer. Bullet was released in October but didn’t start making waves until late November. He trailed similar artists like Paul Wright and Shawn McDonald in the fledgling hip-hop/folk genre and, at first glance, you might have passed on Kearney as another white guy who raps. However, you’d be missing out on a goldmine of lyrical ambition. Bullet pierces through pop semantics to the core - - God is faithful, even when you’re unsure. Kearney’s honesty and the ease of his flow makes him the guy next door… except much more talented.

Best Collection of 2004 (tie)

'Greatest Hits 1986-2004'Greatest Hits 1986-2004

by Amy Grant





'The Best of Sixpence None the Richer'The Best of Sixpence None the Richer

by Sixpene None the Richer



Let’s take a trip back to when pop was pure. The 90s were kind to Sixpence None the Richer and Amy Grant. Both saw tremendous crossover success and No. 1 hits. “Kiss Me” made Sixpence a house-hold name, and Heart in Motion kept Grant in perpetual rotation on MTV. Although Sixpence announced their disbanding at the beginning of this year and Grant went back to doing gospel pop, we can still reminisce with these classic collections.


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