Don’t you love getting lost in an album? Listening to one album over and over and letting the music really do its work on you? We do so we decided to devote some time to five albums we can’t stop listening to.
As per our usual, this will be all over the place. These are not all “new” albums. Some of them are nearly 30 years old. But, these are all albums we can’t stop listening to and we thought you might enjoy checking them out for yourself. Let us know what you think about our selections in the comments or tell us about the album you are currently spending way too much time with.
Wytch Hazel – III: Pentecost (By D.A. Speer)
I’ll be honest…it has been a long time since I’ve found an album that I can sit on and listen to on repeat without quickly tiring of it or skipping the “mediocre” tracks for the “good ones.” Cut to me cluelessly browsing a Facebook group about Christian music early last year and someone hyping this album, saying it was by far their favorite album of 2020. I added it to my saved queue on Spotify and planned to check it out on my next solo car trip.
Little did I know, not only would the album become my favorite of 2020, it would become (quite possibly) my favorite Christian rock album of all time. In Pentecost, Wytch Hazel doesn’t ambush you with aesthetic in attempts to overly impress. Each song is well-crafted and solid, with guitar solos that sound every bit as crisp and soaring as anything Boston ever put out (“Spirit and Fire”), or even an organ solo that calls to mind some of the best of ’70s rock (“I Will Not”).
Regarding the song “Archangel,” singer and songwriter Colin Hendra notes in an interview that it’s a jab at the popular Swedish metal band Ghost, saying “I just felt like all those Ghost songs were amazing, in a musical sense, but the stance on Lucifer either felt the wrong way round, or just the wrong person to be singing about, why that guy?”1
Toward the end, the album switches gears to a song about an angel reaper and blood flowing out of the winepress, moving then to a medieval-instrument laden song on looking to the Crown, and then floating up to a Lady Galadriel-sounding quotation of Daniel 7 that then ends with an awesome and hope-filled triumphal procession of the Ancient of Days.
It says something that, a year later, I still love this album and listen to it regularly. It’s worth multiple listens and is always inspiring. And, best of all, GOD is immensely and overtly glorified throughout the whole thing.
Michael W. Smith – Live the Life (By Phill Lytle)
This is my favorite MWS album. I think that puts me in a small minority. Most of his fans would likely pick either I 2 (Eye), Go West Young Man, Worship, or Change Your World as their favorite. Those were all huge hits for Smitty and have tons of great songs on them. I’m not knocking his other albums, it’s just that I have always loved Live the Life a little more.
I’ll put it this way. When my family takes a road trip, I am always in charge of picking what CDs we take. (Yes, we still listen to CDs. Deal with it.) I would wager that this album makes the cut 90% of the time. For the record, I have hundreds of CDs so for one album to nearly always get chosen, says a lot about that album.
And as often happens, I pull this album out periodically and get lost in it for a few days or weeks. Live the Life is pop goodness but with soul and substance and depth. The songwriting is impeccable. The musicianship is of the highest quality. It ranges from shiny and fun pop numbers to grand and sweeping epics, but at all times, the heart of the thing is vibrantly evident.
Hot take: In a just world, “Let Me Show You the Way” should have been a massive crossover hit. It’s as close to a perfect pop song as you can find.
Favorite tracks: Missing Person, Live the Life, Never Been Unloved, Let Me Show You the Way, I Believe In You Now, In My Arms Again
The War on Drugs – I Don’t Live Here Anymore (By Michael Lytle)
In 2014 The War on Drugs released Lost in the Dream. Not only was it their breakthrough album, but it is also on the VERY short list for album of the decade. They followed that up in 2017 with the Grammy-winning A Deeper Understanding. While Understanding was a great album it did not really break any new ground for the band.
In 2021 they returned with I Don’t Live Here Anymore. The signature Springsteen meets Petty meets Dire Straits sound is here but with enough new flourishes to prevent this record from being a copy of the previous two. The band stripped down their sound by using piano and acoustic guitar to lead the record off. They also incorporated keyboards more often, with the title track being the primary example. The guitars tones and the dreamy vibe continue to be what sets these guys apart and this record has plenty of both. This is the perfect band (and album) to listen to if you are driving around with the windows down.
Favorite tracks: Occasional Rain, I Don’t Live Here Anymore, Old Skin, Harmonia’s Dream
John Batiste – WE ARE (By David Lytle)
If you’ve been watching the NCAA tournament, chances are you’ve heard the theme song of the tournament. It’s the feel-good, gospel music influenced “Freedom” by John Batiste. I first heard the song driving back from work when I needed a song to sing and dance to. I’d never heard it before, but it didn’t take long before I was one of the members of that choir seeing “freedom!” It’s a simple, fun, and powerful song that drew me into this 2021 release, but it’s the other tunes that have kept me coming back over and over again.
First, it needs to be said that I listen to much of my music in the car with my kids. They like a variety of music (including hip hop) and can only take so much “depressing stuff from the 90s.” This album gives them the candy they want, but with the musical genius of a true master. John Batiste mixes Jazz, rap, soul, and R&B in a way that does justice to each genre while still transcending labels. His rap songs (like “Boyhood”) feature jazz elements. Additionally, they are clean and fun for the whole family. My 10-year-old loves the lines “too short to catch a rebound” and “you’ll still see me ballin’” from “Boyhood”. He relates.
The highlight of this album is the title track “We Are.” It is epic. It is an empowerment song and it works musically in every way. The marching band that comes in takes the song to the next level. This song will blow your lid off and it gets better every time. Listen to it loudly and thank me later.
TopHouse – Snapshot (By Nathan Patton)
Last October, while attending the Rabbit Room’s Hutchmoot Homebound virtual conference, I was introduced to many new (to me, at least) musical artists. One group, in particular, stood out. The universal reaction, among my family members, to TopHouse the band and their performance was to be dumbfounded.
The boys from Montana defy genre. If I had to limit them to one, I guess I’d say folk-rock. William, the violinist, would not look out of place in a Scandinavian power metal band. Joe, the lead singer and banjo/guitar/piano player, looks (and sounds a bit, to me) like a young Matthew McConaughey. Jesse, the mandolin/guitar player and percussionist, is much more subtle, so he’s probably the one you really have to watch out for.
Their sound is a pound of Mumford, a cup of NEEDTOBREATHE, a good helping of Irish folk music, a dash of Muse, a hint of pop, and a whole heap of unique Montana oddity. It is delightfully incomprehensible.
The TopHouse album I listen to the most is their latest full-length album Snapshot, which came out last year. Their earlier stuff is definitely worth a spin as well. The Irish EP they released last month introduces the newest member, Andy (also from Montana), on the keys and is a whole lot of fun.
Favorite Tracks: Vanity, In the Darkness, Written in the Rain, My Written Heart, Chicago
There you have it. Five albums we can’t stop listening to. How about you? What are you listening to on repeat right now? Let us know in the comments.