There’s something you need to know: I am a terrible singer. Like, really bad at it. If you ever sit next to me at church on a Sunday when I’m belting it out, I’m really sorry. But I don’t let my awfulness stop me. I try to sing as much as I can during every worship gathering. I know that singing together really does matters. It’s not the totality of worship, but it is a powerful thing.
But even so, there are times when I struggle with singing.
I know I know I know: everyone’s written about why people struggle with singing in church. You’ve read or heard most of what can be said about theologically shallow, vapid lyrics in contemporary praise songs. (And if you’ve hung out with me, I can guarantee this is true.) You’ve read (or at least I hope you have) advice on how to sing when you struggle. You’ve maybe (I hope) talked with your pastor about it, too.
So maybe it’s time for something different. Maybe we don’t need another list of the reasons [insert flavor of the week band’s] songs aren’t the bee’s knees or why meaningless additions to great songs hinder my sanctification. And if you’re looking for a post in which I throw my church under the bus on music… sorry. (Also, gross.)
Instead, I want to do something helpful for everyone who struggles with singing at times, and those who don’t, too. Today, I want to share with you a few albums that I think are really great. These are a few of the ones that I’ll listen to portions of on the way to and from church, or when I’m working and I need to fill my mind with something encouraging and edifying.1
Y’all ready for this?
Five albums that will make you want to sing
The Water and the Blood by The Modern Post. Dustin Kensrue put this album out three or four years ago, and it is phenomenal. The theology is rich but not complex, the melodies are hooky, and the key is actually within my range. (Miracle!) Every time I put it on, I can’t help but start singing. Standout songs: “Psalm 145,” “Suffering Servant;” “Rejoice;” “The Voice of the Lord;” “Come Lord Jesus.”
Liberating King by Stephen Miller. Miller does a great job of balancing the heart and the head on this album. The music itself is solid, the lyrics are accessible, but the commitment is to keep the listeners’ focus on God, rather than on us. (For more of my thoughts on this album, read my full review from 2015.) Standout songs: “It is Well;” “You Complete All You Begin.”
Messenger Hymns by Matt Boswell. Boswell has now released two volumes of new and rearranged songs, and both are very strong. The music is often understated, letting the lyrics take prominence. The lyrics themselves fill me with joy, as I am continually pointed to our great and amazing God. Standout songs: “O Sing My Soul;” “Let the Nations Be Glad;” “God Omniscient, God All Knowing;” “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery.”
Live at the Gospel Coalition by Keith and Kristyn Getty. Chances are you’re already a fan of the Gettys. “In Christ Alone” is probably their best-known hymn, but it is by no means their only great song. I’m especially a fan of this album because the best way to listen to the Gettys is live. Standout songs: “In Christ Alone;” “Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed;” “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty;” “Compassion Hymn.”
The Good King by Ghost Ship. Ghost Ship caught my attention three years ago with this album, and it’s because of one song my kids wanted me to play over and over again: “Mediator.” And if there’s one word I could use to describe the entire album, it would be “hopeful.” Listening to it inspires me to feel this way. It makes me grateful for all I’ve been given, and it makes me look forward to the new creation when I will get to see Jesus face-to-face. And that’s what good praise music should do, isn’t it? Standout songs: “Mediator;” “The Gospel;” “Behold the Lamb of God.”
Hopefully you’ve noticed something with these recommendations: None of these artists are afraid of writing new songs. None of them are are overly complex in their theology. All of them use guitars, drums, repeating choruses, personal pronouns, and everything else the straw man arguments tell me I’m supposed to hate in church music. They are just good albums that take my eyes off of me and fix them on our great God and Savior.
That’s all I need to inspire me to sing. I hope it’s the same for you.