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Most Spun 2004: It's revolution, baby.
[ cMusicWeb.com's end of the year feature | compiled by ben forrest ]

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TONYCUMMINGS Editor, Cross Rhythms Magazine
Stronger Than My Heart - Onehundredhours
Onehundredhours - Stronger Than My Heart
As far as I'm concerned worship music should be a creative centrepoint of every believer's life. Therefore, locating the very best worship albums is for me an absolutely vital task. The whole Cross Rhythms team has long recognized that Harpenden-based onehundredhours are something very special. Both their independent album Lift and their mini-album on Survivor Cardiphonia have fed and sustained many of the CR team members and now this gem is possibly their strongest yet. There are grittily powerful rock anthems ("He Is Good", "River Is Wide") and atmospheric acoustic-based pieces ("You Are The One" and "One Day") while the vocal interplay between Tre and Tori Sheppard is thrilling and the string parts from the City Of Prague Philharmonic quite sublime. When these anointed musicianaries take their vertical love songs into the mainstream arena on Daniel Bedingfield's 2005 UK tour it could well be the live event of the year.
Seven Swans - Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens - Seven Swans
With an ever increasing number of Christian musicians preferring to stay outside the rigid confines of the Christian music subculture we now have some intriguing incidents of believers applauded in the mainstream music world yet unknown in Christian music circles. Like Michigan-born acoustic singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens. There's a beautiful melancholy intrinsic in these songs that are led by Sufjan's amazing banjo playing. And if the banjo conjures up images of corny hoedowns, Sufjan's playing will be a revelation. Like the work of Brother Danielson who produced this album, there is something wonderfully quirky here. From the opening repetitive almost chant-like strains of the opening "All The Trees Of The Field Will Clap Their Hands" to the closing "The Transfiguration," Stevens' spiritual concerns are more to the fore than on previous material. One of the most refreshingly original sounds you'll hear this or any year.
Message To The Masses: 1992-2004 - The Tribe
The Tribe - Message To The Masses: 1992-2004
The evolution of The World Wide Message Tribe (later truncated to The Tribe) is one of the most important stories in the development of contemporary Christian music in Britain. When formed in 1992 by singer Mark Pennells, rapper Andy "Heavyfoot" Hawthorne and producer Zarc Porter CCM was clearly missing the boat in the UK. While Nashville was churning out streams of slickly produced pop the British youth scene was completely dominated by dance club culture. The Tribe were amongst the very first to recognize Christian music's lack and with breathtaking skill produced catchy house music with marvelous albums like their self-titled debut and 1994's Dance Planet. Very much a tool for schools evangelism, they quickly became the most efficient machine for evangelizing early teens Britain has seen for decades. Then, as styles changed, the group with continuing line up overhauls, kept pace transforming by 2000 into a slinky R&B/hip-hop unit. All this is documented here on this effervescent retrospective.
When Silence Falls - Tim Hughes
Tim Hughes - When Silence Falls
Such is my loathing of the ludicrously overrated and over-hyped A Grand Don't Come for Free by The Streets that I almost left Tim Hughes' wistfully downbeat worship album off this list. Why? Because recently I saw Tim's inexplicable inclusion of The Streets' slice of expletive-strewn laddish garage rap in a "What Are You Listening To?" item in Nashville's CCM magazine. But of course that aberration of Tim's taste has nothing to do with the quality of the Watford worship man's album. Maybe there isn't another "Here I Am To Worship" song here (though the near classic "Beautiful One" comes close). But, as Darlene Zschech will tell you, a "Shout To The Lord" doesn't come along every day. What Tim does give us is a crafted rock worship album which exudes honesty and deals openly with pain and doubt as well as joy. An album that, like all top quality worship, draws the listener into an intimate place with our Lord.
Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield
Natasha Bedingfield - Unwritten
With so much pop little more than empty anthems the latest crop of pretty ones can mime to on MTV, Natasha Bedingfield is something very different. Those years of dues-paying, singing R&B gospel with brother Daniel in The DNA Algorithm have clearly born fruit for the 22-year-old singer. For Unwritten is a delightful, and at times quite brilliant, debut which though not quite as defiantly eclectic as Daniel's Gotta Get Thru This still takes in quirky R&B, wistfully lilting pop and even and even a rock-tinged track that echoes the recent work of Pink. With it already producing three UK hits ("Single," "These Words" and the title track) I suspect there are more to come from this yet. If you're looking for a funky hook catch "Drop Me In The Middle" (which features a rap from Bizarre of D-12) while the bittersweet sensations of precariously moving towards romance are beautifully expressed in "I Bruise Easily." And Natasha's faith? Try the bonus track "Peace Of Me" which surely is addressed to the lover of her soul. The chorus goes "Oh you found the peace of me / It was missing, it was broken / You've put it back together / Oh, you've found the whole of me / I was empty, now I'm better / 'Cos you pieced me back together." A beautiful song, beautifully sung.

BERTGANGL Contributor, cMusicWeb.com
Better Days Ahead - BDA
BDA - Better Days Ahead
Proof positive that the talent pool at Greenville College didn't run dry when the boys from Jars of Clay left to hit the big time. Tossing together equal parts JoC, 3 Doors Down, Lenny Kravitz and any number of classic rock acts, the five youngsters of BDA have hit on a winning formula. Extra points for reviving a now-endangered art form: the lead guitar solo.
Crashings - Falling Up
Falling Up - Crashings
Although comparisons to their rap/rock and nu-metal contemporaries (Linkin Park, Kutless and the like being the most obvious suspects) are not entirely off the mark, sometimes the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts. Taking the aforementioned fusion of rap, rock and metal and peppering it with elements of emo, reggae and post-grunge, the six members of Oregon's Falling Up know that, at its heart, rock and roll is about energy, attitude and enthusiasm — and, of course, a killer hook or two to make sure the kids hit the repeat button after the CD is over. Fans of acts like Limp Bizkit, 311 and Korn will probably need little coaxing to cozy up to the album. Those who think all rap-metal sounds the same, by comparison, may very well be pleasantly surprised.
Professional Rapper - John Reuben
John Reuben - Professional Rapper
Hardcore rap aficionados who were turned off by Reuben's irreverent self-deprecation and light-hearted braggadocio on his previous record probably won't take much of a shine the latest effort either. Those who got the joke the last time around, though, will find more of what they're hankering for with the third outing, plus a heaping helping of artistic growth in the form of deeper, more serious lyrical themes and a more varied musical palette. Professional? Perhaps. Engaging? Undoubtedly.
Remedy - Strange Celebrity
Strange Celebrity - Remedy
While the nine years between 1980 and 1989 evoke images of skinny ties, aqua eye shadow, pastel-colored shirts and mile-high hair for some, for others they represent a more carefree era when rock stars grabbed the nearest pair of leather pants, turned the amps up to eleven and pumped their fists animatedly as they pondered such weighty issues as sugar-pouring and the all-important unskinny bop. For lovers of the Reagan Decade, or those merely curious as to what all the fuss is about, the members of Strange Celebrity offer just the ticket — meaty guitars, bombastic vocals and lyrical imagery that could only have come from a group of guys who remember the birth of MTV. 2004's most satisfying guilty pleasure.
Moving To Summerville - The Pool Boys
The Pool Boys - Moving To Summerville
Hardly a household name in either the Christian or mainstream camps, these Kansans have tapped into the spirit and spit, as it were, of also-unheard-of power pop purveyors like Big Star, Teenage Fan Club and Edmund's Crown. If none of those names ring a bell (and such a thing seems more likely than not), suffice it to say that you could listen to Top 40 radio for twelve months straight and still be hard-pressed to find sunnier lyrics, sweeter harmonies or more stick-in-your-head memorable melody lines. For those still thinking of pop music in terms of pink hair, pierced navels and pre-recorded vocals, Summerville offers an eye-opening alternative of the most sublime and convincing type.

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