In no particular order here are the top 20 Albums that formed me during my 20’s. These are the ones that challenged my thinking, expanded my musical palate, and introduced me to the broader mainstream world of music. It all started with The Beatles…

The Beatles – 1 (2000)

It all started with this greatest hits album that started my quest for all things The Beatles…Abbey Road, and even The Beach Boys Pet Sounds.

John Mayer – Continuum (2006)

Jazzy, silky smooth guitarist at his finest. Though I heard his Room for Squares album first, this one is the one that keeps me coming back.

Needtobreathe – The Outsiders (2009)

I’ve written about this one elsewhere but suffice to say it has a strong stable of songs and I consider this the band’s best overall work. Great southern friend alternative rock.

Shane & Shane – Pages (2007)

Worship lyrics ripped straight from the journal pages of Shane Barnard and just what the soul needs for a pick me up.

Caedmon’s Call – Share the Well (2004)

This is the one that first got me thinking more about global issues. Highly missional, collaborative, and musically diverse.

Switchfoot – The Beautiful Letdown (2003)

An all time favorite, this is easily my favorite overall work from a prolific band. Stays on theme, and delivers great thinking mans rock.

Various Artists – Glory Revealed (2008)

Hands down my favorite “worship” album ever this acoustic based bluegrass infused take on Scripture songs never gets old.

Jars of Clay – The Eleventh Hour (2002)

This is the one that caused me to look a little deeper at lyrics, and not just dismiss what I didn’t understand.

Coldplay – Vida La Vida or Death And All His Friends (2008)

It had a bunch of radio hits but did so despite being a loosely defined concept album. Soaring melodies, fallen kings, experimental pop/rock that gets better with age.

Brooke Fraser – Albertine (2008)

If this was a three song album with only “Shadowfeet, “Love is Waiting,” and “Faithful” this would still make this list. I revisit “Faithful” often as a reminder to trust a God I don’t always feel or see at work.

Michael Buble – It’s Time (2005)

I had already fallen for ol’ Blue Eyes and explored Nat King Cole, so when Buble hit my Ears with a fresh old swinging sound it didn’t take much hook me for good.

Norah Jones – Come Away With Me (2002)

Norah Jones much like Michael Buble just has a vibe that appeals to my most often mood of chill. Perfect as background music or for a candlelit romantic dinner.,

Relient K – MmHmm (2004)

The cheeky punk/rock group that had been guiding me through my first years of college took their biggest step forward musically and maturity wise. I could (and still can) identify with so many Thiessen penned songs.

Boys II Men – Legacy: Greatest Hits (2001)

One of my sing loudly and proudly in the car Albums, this one helped teach me harmony. And allowed me to practice my super low bass apologies, “baby…I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt you…”

David Crowder Band – A Collision (2005)

This might be the most under appreciated genius work of art that Christian music has…well, hyperbole yes… it it should be in the discussion anyway. It’s worship, but it’s a concept album with layers of thought and meaning if you’re willing to dig.

Derek Webb – She Must And Shall Go Free (2003)

This is the one that taught me how to be direct in holding the church accountable. Any gripes with his blunt approach then, or his cynical/weary approach now notwithstanding, he points his finger at himself first, but calls the church at large to a higher standard. It’s needed still.

Downhere – Self titled (2001)

Two lead vocalists with a drastically yet complementary style and killer lyrics put this one is all time favorite category for me. “Protest to Praise,” “Calmer of the Storm,” and “Great Are You” are worth it on their own, but there’s still more goodness to be had.

Jon Foreman – Fall EP (2007)

All four of the season EP’s are terrific but I return to these six songs the most. Simple acoustic instrumentation that allows the lyrics to shine, and shine they do. Listen to “The Cure For Pain” and feel the yearning in his voice. Then repeat.

Sara Groves – Tell Me What You Know – (2007)

Having previously heard her debut album and being impressed with her poetic lyricism I somewhat lost track of Groves until buying tickets to a concert tour she was doing with Charlie Peacock called Art. Justice. Music. She played many of the songs from this one that were inspired by a foreign mission trip and it struck a chord in my heart. Try listening to “I Saw What I Saw” and “Say A Prayer” knowing their backstories and try not to weep.

TFK – Phenomenon (2003)

There were other possibilities for albums that expanded my musical palate from Mainstream Christian pop to a more rock alternative, but in the end this had to be the one. A major step forward for the band from their rap/rock roots I like to listen to this one loud as I throw up my Rawkfist.

Well, there you have it. These are the 20 albums I feel like best describe where I was and where I was headed in my 20’s. It coincided with major life milestones like college, graduating college, getting married, having a kid, experiencing my four years of “desert” wandering, and moving across the country with two kids in tow.

What about you? I’d love to see your list if you have one. Happy listening! – Josh