Christians have long since had an awkward relationship with the Christian music world. On one hand; churches provide a weekly gathering with music that (hopefully) doesn’t sound awful! For music lovers and musicians alike, this is a fantastic way to get more live music in your life. With more and more churches moving towards a dramatic increase in the level of quality in their music, going to church services and worship nights has never been better. The quality of music in the general worship scene has never been better. (If you don’t believe that, you probably weren’t listening to worship music a decade ago.)
On the other hand… it all just still sounds the same. Despite massive steps forward, the vast majority of worship music still sounds just as much like diet Coldplay. It’s not a bad sound, but hearing it day in and day out can get tiring, especially for those of us who really live for good music. Musicians are getting tired of making it, music lovers are getting tired of hearing it.
Of course, in a live worship context, it can still be incredible. CCM songwriters are putting out more and more amazing songs for church contexts, helping to make Sundays much more exciting and beautiful. But what about the other six days of the week? For many Christians, it can seem like there just isn’t anything that’s worth listening to.
Lucky for them, the indie Christian music scene has been booming over the past several years. More and more artists are bringing incredible songs and musical projects to the Christian scene, and what’s more, they don’t sound like U2 cover bands! Rejoice, rejoice. These are some of the best indie bands on the scene today, to help you fill up the other six days of the week with truly beautiful and innovative music that still actively and intentionally worships God.
Officially (unofficially?) titled “The Bad Boys of Christian Rock,” Gable Price and Friends are an indie rock band based out of Redding, California. If you’ve been longing for music that can simultaneously go hard and talk intellectually about God without sounding cheesy, this is it.
The band smoothly weaves their way through the varyingly intense songs on Fractioned Heart, the band’s debut full length album. From the first song and all the way through, GP+F create songs that genuinely have some of the most evocative and intense lyrics about what it means to be a modern Christian. Gable Price’s lyrics are honest, sincere, and not afraid to question his own life. The band itself hits hard on songs like Awestruck Revival and Heretic, but still knows how to build songs into beautiful crescendos in songs like Underdressed.
Their music is rock that doesn’t pull any punches because it’s “Christian.” GP+F drives directly into full blooded rock and roll, and the guitar and bass players aren’t scared to do something that’s actually interesting. Gable Price and Friends are just getting started making top tier music, and their future is very bright.
John Mark Pantana’s voice is like a warm hug. You can almost hear him smiling in his music, and for good reason; his love for God is evident and clear in every single second of every song. His music is fairly low key, but it is full of sweet and warm lyrics about God’s love and how he experiences it. Love Secrets, his second LP, is one of the most intimate and sweet sounding albums on the christian music scene today.
John Mark Pantana’s entire discography screams indie, and is comfortable with that sound. In a world where most Christian artists are trying their best to sound as clean and polished as possible, JMP’s music is content to sound like a warm hug. His first album, Mighty Grace, was entirely recorded onto an iPhone with a podcast microphone. Love Secrets retains that intimate warmth, combined with a slight bump in the versatility of the sound. Every song is full of his sweet and warm vocals, surrounded by production that washed over and around the listener like a warm glow.
When it comes to songs that feel like drinking a warm cup of tea, John Mark Pantana’s songs sound like a hot mug of Earl Grey with a generous swirl of honey. Every song is dripping with honest love for God, and the joy behind the music is infectious. John Mark Pantana is creating some of the sweetest songs in the Christian indie music scene today, perfect for rainy days, late nights, and every moment in between.
Laity has one of the most exciting sounds in all of Christian music. Dreamy, synth driven music characterizes Laity’s discography, creating a warm, yet modern flavor of pop music. The songs are honest, surrounded with production that is inviting, yet innovative. Their 2018 release, Still, is one of the most raw and intentional indie releases that isn’t acoustic driven. The synths and lively production sound fresh and exciting, and brought a new sound to Christian music.
But with 2020’s LET YOURSELF BE LOVED, Laity took a massive step forward into its own identity. These songs are exciting and full of vitality, while still offering the same warm and clean sound of Laity’s previous releases. These songs are bold statements of God’s love, and consistently shed a new light on topics in Christian music that are often overlooked. Laity’s encouraging and uplifting spirit brings freedom and peace through its music, and is still pushing the bar forward in indie bands in the worship scene.
Jon Guerra is one of the best things to happen to Christian music in the 21st century. This brilliant musician who found his footing in Chicago has grown to become one of the most beautiful and important artists in all of Christian music. His songwriting is deep and enrapturing, and his voice sounds like it literally came directly from an angel. Jon Guerra has taken the whole world of Christian music and given it a new high standard of what devotional music should look like.
Ever since his first album, 2015’s Little Song, Jon Guerra has been weaving his way into the hearts and minds of countless people who are looking for something that sounds beautiful and honest. His breakout acoustic song, I Will Follow has honestly guided me through some of the most difficult seasons of my life. And with his second full length LP, 2020’s Keeper of Days, Guerra redefined what a Christian album can truly be, and how complexity and innovation in songwriting can fit into christian music. Keeper of Days has come to be known as one of the best and most important Christian albums in the entire world of Christian music.
Jon Guerra’s sweet voice and truly inspirational and evocative songwriting have been stealing hearts and bringing peace to countless listeners over the past decade. He doesn’t show any signs of stopping, and countless listeners are on the edge of their seats to see what he does next.
I know what you’re thinking. “Isn’t that the sloppy wet kiss guy?” Yes, yes it is. But besides writing some of the most incredible worship songs ever (How He Loves, King of My Heart), John Mark McMillan has been putting out some of the most exciting and innovative indie rock on the christian scene for years. He’s not afraid to work with lyrics and sounds that most CCM would shy away from, and is constantly pushing the envelope for what good christian music can and should sound like.
Listening to 2010’s The Medicine and 2012’s Economy is a great taste of some lively, exciting, and rowdy rock and roll. Both of these albums go hard, and McMillan’s voice sounds like a straight up baritone powerhouse, akin to Matt Behringer of The National. But from the first seconds of 2017’s Mercury and Lightning, it’s clear that McMillan has a lot to say about the state of both the world at large, and his personal relationship with God. The songs are raw and direct, dealing with doubt, frustration, and the honest struggles of Christian life. The lyrics are full of philosophical observations, curious wondering, and honest conversations with God, all surrounded by some of the most exciting music in the Christian world.
McMillan’s 2020 release, Peopled With Dreams, looks at the world in an entirely new light, looking at the miracle that humanity is. The album is full of awe and wonder, as well as some of the most expressive and fascinating instrumental music in all of Christian music. This album is full of some of the most incredible songs in the Christian world today. All around, John Mark McMillan has been making incredible music for a very long time, and he’s only getting better.
Christian music has never been more exciting, and if we look at the trends, it’s only going to get better! These five bands are just the top of a massive pool of christian artists, ranging all kinds of genres. Take a look at these incredible bands, as a starting point, and they’ll be sure to guide you in the right direction for your weekday worship music fix. The future for Christian music is looking incredibly bright; get ready for some of the best worship of your life.