Last summer I compiled a list of 14 newer, lesser-known Christian artists who are musically interesting and unapologetic about their faith. Many readers told me how much they appreciated it, so I thought I’d compile a sequel list this year to highlight a new crop of promising artists.
Though a list like this could be a mile long, I tried to again focus on artists who are newer and more under-the-radar; artists TGC readers might not know about yet. I also chose artists who are inspired by Scripture and devotional in tone, while also defying stereotypes and pushing stylistic boundaries of what we’re used to in contemporary Christian music. Even within that criteria, I could have included far more than just the 15 I highlight below. There’s a surge of artistry happening right now among indie Christian musicians, and it’s exciting to watch.
I compiled a new playlist sampler—on both Spotify and Apple Music—that will give you a good introduction to their music. Some will be more appealing to you than others, depending on your taste, but I hope there’s something of interest here for everyone.
Montell Fish is a fresh new voice in Christian hip hop. Having become a Christian just a few years ago, the 22-year-old rapper, producer, and founder of Lord’s Child makes ambient, lo-fi chillhop that testifies to how God has changed and is changing him. In addition to significant musical output, the Pittsburgh native also has a very active YouTube channel full of spoken word poems, music videos, and musings on everything from Kanye West to pornography addiction. Check out Bedroom Gospel (2017) as a place to start.
- Songs to Sample: “Holy God,” “Your Love Has Called Me Back,” “Wars,” “Wonderful God”
Jon Guerra’s Keeper of Days is near the top of my “best albums of 2020” list. The “devotional music” artist, whose folk sound especially echoes Nick Drake, cites influences ranging from Radiohead and Bob Dylan to Jeff Buckley and Brahms. It shows. The musical creativity in his work is strong, as are the poetic, psalm-esque lyrics. I recently interviewed the Austin, Texas-based artist for TGC, asking him—among other things—about his experience composing music for Terrence Malick films.
- Songs to sample: “Kingdom of God,” “Citizens,” “Teach Us That One Song,” “Life Logic”
I only heard of Claudia Isaki for the first time recently, but the jazzy, soulful worship jams by the Paris, France, native have me excited about the future of this young artist. Though unabashedly God-glorifying, Isaki’s music would be as natural to hear in a Parisian coffee shop as in a church. Check out her debut EP, My Home, and watch the videos for her excellent song “I Won’t Let Go” and collaboration, “Never Change.”
- Songs to sample: “I Won’t Let Go,” “Never Change,” “Eyes for You,” “Milk & Honey”
Loud Harp is a Colorado duo, Asher Seevinck and Dave Wilton, whose music has been described as “shoe-gaze, meets Peter Gabriel, meets the Holy Spirit.” The songs on their three albums are often directly inspired by the Psalms, both lyrically and in a tone of raw emotion and plaintive cries to the only God who can hold us together. Be sure to also check out Dave’s excellent solo project, A Boy and His Kite.
- Songs to sample: “(27) Take Heart,” “Be Still,” “Hold Me Together,” “(77) You Heard Me”
It’s a bit of a trip to hear a soul/funk cover of “Before the Throne of God Above,” from a bearded white dude no less, but Nashville’s Cole McSween manages to pull it off. Citing stylistic influences from neo soul to 70s-inspired yacht rock, and chiefly Andrae Crouch, McSween seeks to make Christian music that is “soulful and soul-filling.” From the sound of his debut EP, Transient, he’s accomplishing that.
- Songs to sample: “New Reality,” “Love So Real,” “Washed Away,” “Seasons Change”
One of the only bands currently occupying the niche genre known as “Christian Shoegaze,” Austin, Texas–based Medical Morning pushed the boundaries of what worship music can sound like. Comparisons to Starflyer 59 are apt, mostly because so few others have defined this sonic space—but Medical Morning is its own thing, and an exciting thing at that.
- Songs to Sample: “All Hail the King,” “Unsetting Sun,” “Come What May,” “You Think You’re Radical” (Starflyer 59 cover)
Seattle’s Sajan Nauriyal blends hip hop, R&B, and electronic pop to create a wonderfully fresh sonic landscape for humble, God-focused lyrics. Christian music needs more artists like Nauriyal, who push Jesus music in eclectic new directions. Check out Nauriyal’s 2020-released album, Perspective, for a celebration of God’s steadfastness through life’s ups and downs.
- Songs to sample: “Sight,” “Hiding Place,” “trust,” “all I want”
Australia’s Tenielle Neda became a Christian in her 20s, and her music reflects the uncynical passion of an adult convert. A train driver and former Australia Idol contestant, Neda makes melodic folk—at times reminding me of Aimee Mann—that is theologically rich and musically lovely. If her debut EP, Mercy, is any indication, she’ll be a notable presence in Christian music for years to come.
- Songs to sample: “Mercy,” “Person In Christ,” “Antidote for Apathy,” “Valley of Vision”
I’ve probably listened to Jonathan Ogden more than any other Christian artist in 2020. Between his solo albums based on the Psalms, the four seasons, and the 24 hours in a day, as well as his music with Rivers & Robots, Ogden’s output is prodigious and consistently strong. His solo quarantine worship sets were a comfort to me in the early days of COVID-19. An artist’s artist, Ogden glorifies God not only through music, but also video, graphic design, even dance. He’s the real deal.
- Songs to sample: “Slow Down,” “Waterfall,” “By the Streams,” “Psalm 34:1–9”
John Mark Pantana
Hailing from Lynchburg, Virginia, John Mark Pantana works full-time at his family’s roofing company and also makes some pretty gorgeous “Jesus music” on the side (as he writes on his website: “Roof by day. Fiddler by night.”). With a folk-funk sound in the vein of Josh Garrels, Pantana’s music is grace-soaked and soulful.
- Songs to sample: “Abba,” “Made for Jesus,” “Taste and See,” “This Is Love”
The Pharaoh Sisters
Based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, this folk duo’s sound is part Western cowboy, part Appalachian music, part campfire music for a Blue Ridge revival. Their 2020 release, Civil Dawn, is a promising debut for a duo whose music is at home performed in a dive bar as much as on stage at the PCA General Assembly.
- Songs to Sample: “Angle of Repose,” “Cowboy Coffee,” “Our Mountain Home,” “Homecoming”
Nashville’s Chris Renzema is one of the most promising Christian singer-songwriters I’ve come across in recent years. His latest, Let the Ground Rest, is one of the best albums made by a Christian artist in 2020. The sound is indie tavern folk-worship, with Wilco vibes and John Mark McMillan influence. It’s passionate, poetic, and personal worship of the best sort.
- Songs to sample: “Springtime,” “How to Be Yours,” “Adonai,” “God Is Love”
A rural Indiana native, Sarah Sparks’s acoustic folk has a hard-earned yet whimsical sound. Her 2014 album, Into the Lantern Waste, is inspired by characters in The Chronicles of Narnia. It’s as delightful as it sounds. Each song on her second album, The Ways and Means, is written from the perspective of God in a different role, such as surgeon, gardener, or artist. Her latest album, All I Have, released last year.
- Songs to sample: “Come Further Up,” “Eustace Scrubb,” “Your Burden Is Mine,” “The Artist”
At just 22, Trulah has a voice and a vibe that sounds seasoned and wise. The North Carolina native just released a stellar EP, Prologue, which I hope is a sign of much more to come—as its name would suggest. With Scripture-centric lyrics and a Norah Jones-type sound, Trulah says her mission is “to present the world’s greatest gift, The Good News of Jesus Christ, in a jazzy, soulful kind of way.” She’s absolutely doing that.
- Songs to sample: “Rain Down,” “Heart Over Hand,” “Lost to Be Found,” “Only You”
John Van Deusen
Few Christian artists are as exciting to me as John Van Deusen. Hailing from Washington state, Van Deusen creates music that mixes elements of grunge, punk, emo, and alt-rock to create a dynamic, unpredictable sound, with lyrics full of honest pain but also worship. His 2017 album of devotional songs, Every Power Wide Awake—part two in his (I Am) Origami series—ranked fourth on TGC’s Best Christian Albums of the 2010s. He’s someone to seriously watch.
- Songs to sample: “None Other,” “With Every Power Wide Awake,” “I Will Praise Your Name, Yahweh,” “May You Be Glorified!”
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