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Better Days Ahead - BDA (2004)

Outside of Nashville, Greenville College in Illinois may well boast one of the more impressive resumés in Christian Music. The institution is home to the Agape Festival, one of the longest-running Christian music festivals in the country. Its music department is one of only a handful of institutions offering a major in Contemporary Christian Music.

It's The Way That You Use It EP - Fono (2004)

While most artists in the music world navigate their share of changing fortune over the course of a career, Del Currie and his bandmates in Fono have experienced higher highs and lower lows than most. Shortly after forming in 1996, Currie, drummer Andy Ridley and bassist Ian Crawford put together a demo recording. The demo garnered the threesome, who had yet to even perform live together, an unlikely first gig opening for Bon Jovi before a crowd of 50,000 people in the group's hometown of Milton Keynes, England.

Pretend You're Alive - Lovedrug (2004)

Remember when you were a kid, and at night your closet would come alive with hideous green monsters of various shapes? They would creep toward your feet (you knew how they moved so you didn't need to open your eyes), anxiously waiting to nibble your toes. Did any music coincide with their crawl across the carpet? How about Lovedrug? Pretend You're Alive is the adult monster-in-the-closet dream—a world of nasal yet stunning vocals, crisp yet dirty guitars, and a hint of soft keys to tip the nursery.

Potter's Field - 12 Stones (2004)

Once again I find myself writing about the return of a favorite band after what seems like a prolonged absence. I know I made a big deal out of the two years' gap between releases for Pillar, and I still feel that such a large absence from the scene is too long, but the anxiety was particularly acute with respect to 12 Stones's latest, Potter's Field. When you like an album as much as I like their debut, it's hard to wait for the follow-up.

Save The Humans - Ian Eskelin (2004)

cMW NEWS BULLETIN - With the United States entrenched in the most intense Presidential Election yet, President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry continue to exchange blows on relevant topics such as terrorism, the economy, and the environment. We've just been notified that a new candidate intends to enter the race for President, casting his bid on September 21, 2004.

Between The Fence And The Universe - Kevin Max (2004)

Kevin Max is the musical equivalent of abstract art. As if his intense vibrato was not enough to set him apart from other artists, Kevin's lyrics are vague and symbolic, essentially poems set to music, and the music itself does not conform to any fixed genre. Like abstract art, he is difficult to understand and easy to dismiss as strange. However, it is this individuality, as his fans are quick to relate, that draws people to his music. Three years after the release of his solo debut, Stereotype Be, KMAX has suddenly reappeared on the American music scene with an exciting new EP.

James Clay - James Clay (2004)

James Clay doesn't sound like a 22-year-old. His gritty, soulful voice sings of wisdom beyond his age. However, this worship leader, husband and father of two has lived enough to fill a few lifetimes. Growing up in poverty, Clay had to support his mother and siblings at the age of 14. He began to make sense of his life with an $80 dollar guitar. Less than ten years later, Clay is a new artist on Inpop Records, and his self-titled debut album reveals the spiritual and musical maturity that can only come from knowing the faithfulness of God.

Beneath Medicine Tree - Copeland (2003)

Music, as much as any art, has been used as a balm for fragile wounds. When music is used in such a manner, it rings honest and heals other cracked hearts. Sir Phillip Sidney wrote how poetry was used to relieve one's senses from the damaged world surrounding, and Beneath Medicine Tree has this same soothing effect. While Aaron Marsh struggled with the hospitalization of two close friends, these songs poured out frustration and healing. Due to this transparency, listeners can find healing as well.

Where Do We Go From Here - Pillar (2004)

So the other day I got my pre-ordered, autographed copy of Pillar's latest, Where Do We Go From Here. I've been waiting two long, long years since their last album, 2002's Fireproof, and a lot can happen in two years. Some bands form, release an album and burn-out in less time than that. Following a second lineup change that sees Lester Estelle replace former drummer Brad Noone, Pillar emerges from the studio like a bear after hibernation and makes a simple, but powerful, statement to the world: "We're back."

Soundtrack to a Revolution - The Insyderz (2003)

Trumpets, cornets, and trombones are not common to today's music. They are instruments more acquainted with the big-band sounds of the early twentieth century than the modern rock and rap music. However, The Insyderz have been able to incorporate these instruments into melodies that have managed to stay atop the Christian charts for years. After spending years with their families, the Insyderz are back with Soundtrack to a Revolution.

Glory Defined EP - Building 429 (2004)

It takes a different mind-set to make your first exposure to the world something other than expected. Lucky for the members of Building 429, then, that they have such a mind-set. I mean, any old band can release a full-length album and hope it flies. But it takes guts to put out an EP first. Only five songs! (Well, six if you count an alternate version of the title track, "Glory Defined.") Fortunately, those five songs provide a tantalizing glimpse of what might be the next big thing on the Christian rock scene.

New Medicines - Dead Poetic (2004)

While some might scoff at the idea of the sophomore slump, the challenges involved in following a highly successful first album are very real. Some groups turn out a carbon copy of the debut which almost inevitably pales next to its predecessor. Others purposely run as far afield of the opening effort as possible, only to lose the better part of their fan base in the process. For New Medicines, the follow-up to the critically-lauded Four Wall Blackmail project, the members of Dead Poetic have opted to do a bit of both.

The Fires of Life - Cool Hand Luke (2004)

Enter the life of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Enter their fire. Then realize we were never promised a Christian walk without fire. Once this reality settles, pick up Cool Hand Luke's sophomore release, The Fires of Life. Based on Isaiah 43:2 and Psalm 30:5, Mark Nicks, Chris Susi and Brandon Morgan lift scriptures and paste them right into the song, creating a mosaic of language mixed with delicate instrumentation.

Downhere - Downhere (2001)

Canadian fans already knew the talent of the promising band Downhere before they were picked up by major label Word Records. As they burst onto the North American scene, they brought along some old tunes for new audiences to hear.

BarlowGirl - BarlowGirl (2004)

The girls in BarlowGirl were the basis of a hit song before most even knew who they were. As the protagonists in Superchic[k]'s "Barlow Girl," these three sisters were held in high regard because of their biblically strong morals. Now, with two years' experience and a record deal under their belt, this trio has finally released a debut CD in hopes of capitalizing on the notoriety provided by the Superchic[k] song.

Volume and Density - Duvall (2003)

It's always big news when Christian artists "cross over" into the mainstream world, but the opposite case is a rare and welcome find. Meet Josh Caterer, the lead vocalist and guitarist for Duvall. Formerly of Chicago band the Smoking Popes, Caterer battled drug and alcohol addiction until a 1998 conversion to Christianity gave new direction to his life. He soon left the band to pursue his new faith in the music program at a local church. However, as any musician or fan can testify, music is more than a hobby—it's a passion.

Sea of Faces - Kutless (2004)

Few people in the music biz are unfamiliar with the infamous Sophomore Slump. We all dread it—musicians, listeners, labels, and music reviewers—and yet many artists have fallen prey to it. To avoid becoming its next victim, Kutless uses a "catch-all" strategy on their second release, Sea of Faces, employing the crunchy hard rock they're best known for as well as some metal, synth, worship, and yes, even a tad of adult contemporary. The result works well... to an extent. The good news is that they've managed to escape the Sophomore Slump, albeit just barely.