The reputation of Christian music has not been the greatest in recent decades. Often accused of being derivative, sugarcoated, and samey-sounding, “Christian music” as a genre has become such a liability that many musicians understandably avoid the label like the plague.
Is some of Christian music’s poor reputation deserved? Certainly. But the case against Christian music can be simplistic and overstated. The truth is there is a lot of artistically interesting, quality Christian music being made today—it’s just not always easy to find.
The case against Christian music can be simplistic and overstated. The truth is there is a lot of artistically interesting, quality Christian music being made today—it’s just not always easy to find.
The following are 14 newer, lesser-known Christian artists and worship bands that should be on your radar. Most of them have released a new album or EP in the last year. Most draw their lyrics in large part straight from Scripture. Their styles are diverse and some might be up your alley more than others, but all are worth checking out.
I compiled a playlist sampler—on both Spotify and Apple Music—that will give you a good introduction to their music.
If Leon Bridges sang doctrinally sound worship music, it might come close to the music of Antoine Bradford. The California-based singer has a soulful, sincere, God-glorifying style that deserves more recognition. Don’t miss his newest EP, Even in the Dark, as well as 2018 EP, Dear Struggling Christian.
Songs to Sample: “Promises,” “Lux,” “Morning Song (Give Me Jesus)”
Australian worship band CityAlight, based at Sydney’s St. Paul’s Castle Hill, makes music that is Hillsong-esque in sound, but more biblically and doctrinally rich. This is rousing, joyful music for the church by the church. Check out their newest EP, Yet Not I.
Songs to Sample: “Yet Not I but Through Christ in Me,” “Christ Is Mine Forevermore,” “Only a Holy God,” “God Is for Us”
The Corner Room
Under The Corner Room moniker, Adam Wright—music minister for Birmingham’s Cahaba Park Church—has been putting Scripture to song since 2013. Having already released two Psalms albums and an album based on 1 Corinthians 13, The Corner Room’s latest release is a deep dive into Isaiah 53.
Songs to Sample: “Movement 3 (Isaiah 53:4–7),” “Psalm 23,” “Movement II (v. 4–10)”
Nashville-based Greg LaFollette is the resident artist at Grace Story Church and serves as their director of arts and liturgy. His songs draw heavily from the Psalms, liturgy such as The Book of Common Prayer, and the church calendar. Check out his newest EP, Holyweek, Vol. 1, and read his recent interview with Justin Taylor.
Songs to Sample: “Psalm 136 (Your Mercy Endures),” “Never Alone,” “Psalm 31 (Into Your Hand)”
Joseph Pensak, who co-founded Bifrost Arts, now makes music under the Hallowell moniker. His debut self-titled album, released in March, is full of musically interesting originals and creative takes on centuries-old hymns by the likes of John Newton, Fanny Crosby, Isaac Watts, and Johann Crüger.
Songs to Sample: “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior,” “All Things Well,” “Soul, Adorn Yourself With Gladness”
Isla Vista Worship
This worship collective, based out of Isla Vista Church near the University of California, Santa Barbara, makes funky and fresh worship music well-suited to its beach-and-college-town context. Its latest album, Soul Hymns, released in March.
Songs to Sample: “814,” “Opened Up the Heavens,” “My Portion”
North Carolina-based “friendly folk” artist Jess Ray has become one of my favorite contemporary Christian singer/songwriters. Her latest album, Parallels & Meridians (released in February), explores the way Jesus “is this perfect point between humanity and God, this intersection of horizontal and vertical,” as Ray described it in a Rabbit Room interview.
Songs to Sample: “Psalm 19,” “Sunday Afternoon,” “O Great Light”
Based in Birmingham, UK, Josh Gauton is a passionate singer/songwriter with a reverb-heavy, ambient rock sound. Gauton just released his excellent debut album, O, Peace, on UK label Running Club Records (home of Rivers & Robots, who appear on Gauton’s song, “Wounded for Me”). Check out the weirdly awesome music video for “Time’s Not Wasted.”
Songs to Sample: “Perfect Father,” “Wounded for Me,” “Time’s Not Wasted”
As she describes on her Kickstarter page, Makuyi is interested in “the fusion of musical excellence, creativity, and biblical truth.” Her joyful and Jesus-glorifying music manifests this philosophy. A self-taught multi-instrumentalist, Makuyi is based in Sheffield, UK, and just released her lovely debut EP, Eternal Gospel.
Songs to Sample: “For the Joy Set Before Him,” “Strong in the Fire,” “Victory Song”
Parallel Stereo is the new worship project from Glen Galloway, the San Diego-based artist most known for his work with experimental Christian rock band Soul-Junk, whose songs were mostly Scripture put to music. Parallel Stereo’s debut album, Life, is less radical than Soul-Junk but still avant-garde by contemporary worship music standards.
Songs to Sample: “Melt,” “Way,” “Sun”
Few contemporary Christian artists are as musically interesting and theologically rich as Psallos, a Tennessee-based musical collective led by Cody Curtis. Psallos puts Scripture to song in whimsical, wonderfully unexpected ways. Their albums Romans (2015) and Hebrews (2017) are both fantastic, and their latest, Jude, just released on June 24.
Songs to Sample: “He Came to Die (3:21–31),” “The Five Solas,” “Peace on Earth . . . / A Conversation (4:14–5:10)
Russ Mohr, worship leader at St. Louis’s The Journey Church, just released his first full-length album, The Kingdom Sessions. The unity-themed, collaborative project features contributions from 12 different co-writers and more than 70 musicians, including Sho Baraka, Liz Vice, Latifah Alattas of Page CXVI, and Odd Thomas of Beautiful Eulogy.
Songs to Sample: “Good to Me” (feat. Sho Baraka), “We Don’t” (feat. Latifah Alattas and Odd Thomas), “Blessing + Honor + Glory + Power”
South of Royal
Based out of The Village Church in Dallas, South of Royal’s unique brand of indie synth worship is pushing the musical boundaries of worship in wonderful new ways. Check out TGC’s interview with the band from earlier this year.
Songs to Sample: “All Hail the Power,” “I’ll Never Be the Same,” “You Remain Faithful”
This California-based indie artist combines original musicality with serious theology. Zambroa’s new, four-song EP, Cagestage—which he describes as “a brief artistic exposition of the doctrines of grace”—is one of the loveliest and most theologically rich Christian music releases of the year so far.
Songs to Sample: “Creature,” “Just,” “Unto You (Heb. 12)”