So as I looked back on 1996 in Christian music I realized it was another incredibly strong year for the genre with as many as twenty five albums worth discussing and re-visiting. Additionally, CCM still had a broad sonic palate having a little something for everyone. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it is meant to be a good representation of what mainstream and indie CCM had/had to offer. I hope it takes you back to a simpler time in your life and and brings a smile to your face.
25. Avalon – Self-Titled
They would reach much higher heights on the next two albums specifically but this is a fine debut. “Give it Up” is my overall favorite.
24. Morella’s Forest – Ultraphonic Hiss
This female fronted Noise-pop band’s second album. For fans of Hoi Polloi and Dakoda Motor Company.
23. The Violet Burning – Self-Titled
Maybe their finest offering, and a worship album of sorts. This record is a rare and interesting blend of shoegaze, grunge, and psychedelia with anguished vocals.
21. Stavesacre – Friction
Stavesacre is a band I could never get into but I understand why they are highly thought of in rock circles.
20. Mortal – Self-Titled
A great mix of all the styles this eclectic industrial-tinged duo had offered to this point.
19. Out of Eden – More Than You Know
Probably my #4 favorite Out of Eden album. While it’s not their best, it certainly has a few gems like “Greater Love” “You Brought the Sunshine” “Get to Heaven” and closer “Then and Only Then.”
18. Charlie Peacock – Stranglelanguage
“That’s the Point” and “Insult Like the Truth” are the cream of this pop songwriting master.
17. Driver 8 – Watermelon
I dig song “Waiting for Godot” most. The rest of the album is a tad too droney for my taste.
16. Rebecca St James – God
An obvious nod to Alanis Morrisette, God has some decent tracks, but it hasn’t aged as well to my ears as an overall album.
15. Nouveaux – …and this is how I feel
A stylistic change from more hair band rock to acoustic-based rock suited them well in my option.
14. Plankeye – Commonwealth
One of the best alt-rock albums of the decade.
13. Cindy Morgan – Listen
Piano pop perfection.
12. Eric Champion – Transformation
I enjoy the futuristic-pop approach of prior album Vertical Reality more, but this is a fine pop-rock album in its own right.
11. Poor Old Lu – Picture of an 8th Wonder
Many a POL fan would fall this their best, and it would certainly be worthy of the conversation. Aggressive alt rock with a atmospheric side.
11. Skillet – Self-Titled
The very beginning for Skillet was this raw and grungy nirvana-like debut. “I Can,” “Gasoline” and “Saturn” are the ones I return to most.
10. Gotee Brothers – Erace
Socially and racially conscious hip-hope of the highest quality from Toby, Todd, and Joey.
9. Big Tent Revival – Open All Nite
Not quite as strong as their debut not there’s some good stuff here. I thought that BTR would be hard pressed to match their debut, but they very nearly do it, and only a year after. Top-to-bottom this album is rock solid.
8. Sarah Masen – Self-Titled
“All Fall Down” and “Love” are jams and need to be on every 90s CCM playlist. Incredibly catchy melodies in the vein of Sheryl Crow abound. “All Fall Down” will get stuck in your head for hours, which for me is no problem at all.
7. Seven Day Jesus – The Hunger
While your appreciation of this short-lived band might be whatever album you heard first, it’s undeniable that The Hunger is a gem. While their follow up was a pop-rock leaning ear worm, The Hunger leans more raw, indie, grungy and unique. Frustratingly, this one is still not available on streaming platforms but worth tracking down a physical copy to hear it in its entirety.
6. Steven Curtis Chapman – Signs of Life
There’s still a special place in my heart for my overall favorite SCC album. I found him to be at his most interesting when he leaned into the country blues type guitar that he does here. “The Walk,” “Lord of the Dance,” “Signs of Life,” and “Free” hold up well, as does the rest of the album.
5. Third Day – Self-Titled
What a start! Perhaps only Jars of Clay came out fully loaded with hits on their debut. Top track is “Consuming Fire,” but there are hits and memorable tunes aplenty.
4. PFR – Them
At the time it was a bittersweet farewell, but even after reuniting for another album and a few songs Them remains in the conversation of their overall best. “Pour Me Out” and “Anything” are the standouts.
3. Mxpx – Life in General
Put this one up against any punk-based album of the era and I think it can hang. It’s my pick for the most memorable work of MxPx’s long and prolific career.
2. Audio A – Bloom
So many great guitar licks on this absolute classic. “I’m Not The King” and “Never Gonna Be As Big As Jesus” still get regular plays for me.
1. Newsboys – Take Me To Your Leader
It’s simply their best and most complete album. “Lost the Plot” “Breakfast,” “Take Me To Your Leader,” and “God is Not a Secret” make this an album to be reckoned with in the 90s if not all-time.
There you have it! Of course there are plenty other albums released this year, these were and are simply my favorites. What about you? Leave a comment below with your favorite from the year!
Another post you might enjoy: 100 Greatest Christian Albums of the 90s
How was Driver 8- Watermelon listed as your favorite when their was only one song that you liked? Plus I have never heard of them. What style of CCM do they do?
Rebecca St James “God” is her best album and always brings me joy when I listen to it.
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Influential album that’s well done but not necessarily one I personally would return to much hence its lower listing among the 25.