1. “Do it for Love” by The 77s
The 77s were a much underrated band. Mike Roe is legendary in Christian rock circles and the band that he started with evidences just some of his musical brilliance. This is just one hit from their self-titled debut, released in 1987. The album as a whole is near perfection. In fact, it had every reason to be a top ten album, and initially Island records was prepared to push it – but then another of their albums broke through first (Joshua Tree by U2). As a result, The Seventy-Sevens never got the attention it deserves. This is the first song of that record, and is beautifully hopeful and upbeat. It combines sounds of California pop and early 70s British rock. In a season that is abysmally negative and pessimistic, Mike Roe sings an invitation to hope for something better: Lift up your heart to heaven. Dream this Dream with Me.
2. “Buzzcut Season” by Dustin Kensure
Cover songs are hard to do well. A good cover needs to sound enough like the original that its recognizable, that it pays tribute. Yet, it needs to be enough adapted and modified to make it a true artistic representation of the second musician. Dustin Kensure pulls it off amazingly on this cover of Lorde. I do not enjoy the original song by the electronica/dream pop artist. Kensure combines his gritty and impassioned vocals with acoustic guitar to make this song uniquely his. A moving rendition of a lyrically rich song.
3. “Rachel’s Song” by Sidewalk Slam
This is a pop-punk song from the band’s second album, Give Back (2002). The song is actually a “hidden track,” with no title, but the official title is “Rachel’s Song” – a reference to lead singer Josiah Curtis’ sister. It’s rare to find a “love” song for your sister, but here is a moving and catchy tribute to family.
4. “Good as Gold” by Sarah Shook and the Disarmers
I don’t like country, but I confess if more of it sounded as gritty and folksy as this song does I might get into it. Shook and the Disarmers are breakout artists, and their follow-up album is highly anticipated. This song is a single off the soon-to-be released Years (April, 2018). Shook sings of loss, but not of a loss of a person since, “you’re not a thing I could up and loose.” Rather, she sings of losing herself to another person and the fear that such loss produces in her. Love is scary, as many of us know, and losing ourself to another is a tricky part of relationships. Shook sings with vulnerability and yet not without the sappiness and sentimentality that many other love songs have. She especially avoids the clichés of much country music. This is a unique song from a really unique artist.
5. “Whisper Something” by Aaron Sprinkle
Aaron Sprinkle is well-known in the Christian music industry as a producer, but over time he has distinguished himself as a singer/songwriter too. Waters & Guns (2013) is a great addition to his solo work. The piano-drive pop combines perfectly with Sprinkle’s dreamy vocals. “Whisper Something” is a catchy electronica song, with a pop piano line throughout. The song’s meaning is a bit elusive, but the sound is captivating.