Following up last year’s big 20 I thought it was only appropriate to continue on with these “anniversary” look back at the past type posts. These are my 20 favorite albums from the year 2001, in the Christian Music realm. Read on to see what albums made the list.
I apologize for posting this at the very end of this crazy year of 2021. Kind of defeats the purpose of a look back at 20th anniversaries when 2022 is right around the corner. Then again, maybe this is the best time? Anyway, check out some of my favorites from 20 years ago that were collected on something called a “Compact Disc” (CD for short). Remember those? Enjoy this write up and excuse any grammatical mistakes (I tried my best to edit). Enjoy!
1. Craig’s Brother – Lost at Sea
Where shall we begin with this album? This is an album nearly perfect in every way and every mention of the word “perfection”. It was an underground punk album that didn’t sound so “underground” for that time period. Songs that held the heart and soul of this record were carefully balanced out. It was dramatic, it was melancholy, it was urgent, progressive, Faith centric, and most of all, Melodic! These songs, this message, this feeling that is conveyed through every ounce of passion played through “Lost at Sea” would just influence me in the years to come, leading me to question, leading me to cry out, and leading me in a forward direction toward my goals, my aspirations, and my faith. It was like all these question marks and roads pointing in every different direction were suddenly silenced by the melodies and urgency of Ted’s voice. The background vocals and every instrument played on this record are unlike most punk records I heard back in 2001 and even still to this day. CB are an underrated gem of a band and one of our scene’s greatest breakthrough artists that the majority of people still haven’t heard. That in and of itself is one of today’s great…unsolved…mysteries (In my best Robert Stack voice). So while you cover yourselves with layers this cold holiday season, let me share with you a historical piece of California sunshine packaged so sweetly by Tooth & Nail and played intelligently by Craig’s Brother, 20 years ago. God Bless you Craig’s Brothers and may your music continue to reach out through the darkness for years to come. Favorites: “Back and Forth”, “Set Free”, “Lullaby”, “Head In A Cloud”, “Prince of America”, “Lost At Sea”, and all the rest.
2. Five Iron Frenzy 2: Electric Boogaloo
One cannot, absolutely not, mention 2001 and not recall this groundbreaking NEW album by Five Iron Frenzy. “Electric Boogaloo 2” was one of the best ska/rock/punk combo albums of the new millennium and still ranks high on my list of favorites 20 years later. I had always been partial to the more “ska” sounds of their earlier discography and the album that followed this one, even ska of other likeminded bands doing similar things but the diversity in sound on this record I feel truly set this one apart. The first 3 tracks “Pre-Ex Girlfriend”, “Far Away”, and “You Can’t Handle This” are like the triple threat of pure perfection. These 3 songs are so dang catchy and really set the bar high for the rest of the record. These songs had a darker feel musically but would lift your spirits high with some well-intentioned sarcasm as well as some carefully placed pop culture references (on “Pre-Ex Girlfriend” and “You Can’t Handle This”) as well as biblically rooted through the song “Far Far Away”. That song in and of itself is so rooted in Faith that you almost get a worship like vibe from it. How many ska-rock-punk bands call out to the disciples, level with truth deniers, and persecutors, and praying that our songs will hold longevity, speaking truth long after we’re all gone? The band travels the very landscape of our ancestors and the native people who were surviving, calling out for truth by sharing a point of view not often talked about in Christian music circles (“The Day We Killed”). One of my favorites is “Juggernaut” with it’s lines about “Freedom Like a Song…Freedom Lifts Me Like a Song…When the Weak Shall Be Made Strong…” hits me in all the right places, heck I even named my blog after that line. “Spartan” is beautiful, “Farsighted” also beautiful as is “Car”. Then you have songs like “Vultures” about modern day consumerism and the pursuit of things that’ll never make you happy or fill that voracious, blood lust hole in your heart. “Plan B” which is about standing at a crossroads and being happy with what is thrown your way while still scratching your head at alternatives. A song that veers off course is “Blue Mix”. That was always the one song you kind of wished you knew more about but didn’t. We all had our guesses. I’ve heard Reese dives into this in other podcasts so I do apologize for my ignorance on the subject (I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts but I certainly support them). The band has been taken for a ride and used at different points of their careers which is not only tragic but inconceivable (sorry not sorry)! Manipulation sucks! Finally the album closes with what I consider to be one of the great songs of our time, “Eulogy”. It’s a love letter and question mark all wrapped up in dramatic horn parts with a certain melodramatic feel. “If Jesus Christ is True then I am mostly lies. If Jesus Christ is Love then I have failed to try”. If Jesus Christ is life then please just let me die…let this die”. We are no better than our fellow man. We pursue the riches of this Earth but will never be satisfied. We seek Truth but fail at our attempts to reach glory. God loves us where we’re at, question marks and all. Confusion, apathy, and complacency, he is there, and we are held by his hands. “Eulogy” wraps up not only this amazing album but the band and their career as a whole. No matter what they’ve done, no matter what they say, they will never be good enough. They’ll never be clean enough, they’ll never be this enough or that enough. What they will be are humans. Humans sharing their brokenness and Truth the best way they can, through instruments, voices, and music. Let this die, but never Five Iron Frenzy.
3. Dogwood – Matt Aragon
This album came out in September of 2001 during a really difficult time for Americans. We were all confused, grief stricken, and traumatized by what we saw on 9/11. A lot of people who weren’t old enough that day to understand it and a huge chunk of people that weren’t born yet will never know the feelings that went through each of us on that day were staring at our TVs and pulling up articles on our dial up connections. It was horrible, all of it. What many of us had were entertainment and things like Music of Movies to carry us through those dark times. A lot of the world in fact I guarantee most of the punk realm and those who didn’t know what “Christian Music” was, probably didn’t know who this gang of San Diegans were. This punk rock super band played their music with such and passion and ferocity that you’d swear they were the biggest thing of 2001 when in reality they were just small stones in a huge pool of rocks. The first 3 Tooth & Nail full lengths from Dogwood are the most perfect representation of this band, their music, their message, and Christian punk as a whole. I know a lot of bands hate that reference and it’s probably for good reason but there isn’t anything offensive about it when looking at the words. Every single song on this record is beautiful. Every song. The message and overall theme of “Matt Aragon” wasn’t lost during 9/11 and if anything, it amplified all of our feelings and expressions exuding them into passionate punk rock. “Do or Die” is one of the best melodic punk worship songs that no Church or Radio Station will ever play. It’s modern-day tragedy but like the corporate (Christian) music landscape, punk rock is offensive, and the abrasive nature of the music doesn’t sit well with the suits unless of course you’re (were) a money maker like Green Day, Rise Against, My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, etc. “American Idiot” and “Do Or Die” are 2 very different things but where one is embraced by media, the other is forgotten. Which one is more meaningful and hold significant substance? Anyway, “Matt Aragon” is one of the best punk albums of 2001 next to Craig’s Brother and Five Iron Frenzy.
4. P.O.D. – Satellite
You can’t bring up the year 2001 and forget to mention the mighty, platinum selling, Southern California rock/metal/reggae/punk hybrid band – P.O.D. Do we use the term “Nu-Metal” when bringing up “Satellite” though? Maybe? This album, “Satellite”, was probably one of the most if not, THE most, important rock albums to emerge out of the early 00’s. People may write the band off as this and that but you can’t discount their immense talent and immeasurable reach as musicians. I really feel as though the band’s “Atlantic Records” years were some of their best recorded music. This album had a unique sound and commercial appeal that would reach across all divides, genres, and preferences to deliver a message like none other at a time when people were wounded and stricken with grief. This album was released on 9/11//01, a day marked by a tragedy like none other. Almost every song on this record was enjoyable for me. I especially found comfort in some of the singles like “Alive”, “Youth of the Nation”, “Boom”, and “Satellite”. The songs “The Messenjah”, “Thinking About Forever”, “Portrait”, and “Set it Off” were really great as well. It’s tough finding something to rip about this album and it’ll go down in history probably as one of the more successful and inspiring records from a band of Christians.
5. Watashi Wa – What’s In The Way
This little known band from California dropped their debut “Lost a Few Battles, Won the War” as teenagers a few years before this one via their label home Bettie Rocket Records. I didn’t really dig that album, sorry. Once I heard “What’s In The Way” in 2001, I was immediately a fan. The production was decent (We all have memories of Love Juice Labs) but the songwriting and Seth’s voice took it up a whole other notch. It was moody in the best of ways but extremely catchy and melodic. It was pop-punk merged with emotional rock music (yeah you can abbreviate if you like) at a time where it was all fresh and undeniably one of a kind. Watashi Wa created music for the masses but absorbed more so in the underground by kids seeking meaning in their music and something to grasp on to. I still remember “booking” them during this time period at a Church near to me here in Orange County and being floored by their passionate energy even if there were just a handful of people in attendance. This was all during Brandon’s (Jones) exploratory concert promotion time period, you know like when I was a promoter but in reality, was failing? Anyway, this is the album that drew me in and this album is what got them signed to Tooth & Nail Records. While “The Love of Life” was great for what it was, I felt as their early sound was lost in big budget, commercial sheen from the production on that follow up. Every song on this record was a joy to listen to. I especially enjoyed “Look”, “The Fleeting”, “Wrong Kind”, “The King”, etc. Thank you, Seth Roberts and company, for making this record and your follow ups. I hope and pray the Watashi Wa reunion is just as successful as the past was for all of you.
6. Sick of Change – These Shattered Lives
How great was this sophomore follow up by Southern California melodic punk band – Sick of Change? It had high energy, passionate, faith centric punk rock from a group of young guys just about to explode. This album still serves as one of the greatest follow up records by a band on the cusp of worldwide success only to see it all fall apart. The band got their start with “In Our Time of Need” which released on Bettie Rocket Records in 1999. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t super memorable either, kinda like Johnny Respect and their 2nd album (if you know you know). This was one of those rare albums where you needed to start from track 1 (Introduction) and listen all the way through regardless of the genre it was in. “Thoughts That Defile”, “Scarlet”, “A Rose Among Thorns”, and the title track, “These Shattered Lives”, are pure heaven. Every song on this record could be played over and over again and honestly, that’s what makes this record so dang special. This is another Love Juice Labs production job (if you know you know) but it sounded great. Yeah I’m sure some of the studio trickery didn’t translate well in a live setting but it didn’t matter because the magic of songwriting and musicianship is knowing that your audience is listening. This was one of the last big releases on Bettie Rocket before both the label and band called it quits. I believe this would have been huge and the band would have been even bigger if they stuck it out and signed with like Hopeless Records along with Thrice at that time period, maybe even Drive Thru alongside New Found Glory, Homegrown, Something Corporate, and Allister.
7. Further Seems Forever – The Moon Is Down
This is so EMO. Yes, that thought ran through my mind and thousands of other like minded individuals at that time period. The real EMO not the perverted black swoop hair, facial piercings, eyeliner, and nail polish kind of folk that came along a few years later (hey, I still like you The Used, My Chemical Romance, Coheed, and Taking Back Sunday). This was just an all around excellent full length album. I had followed the band the minute Strongarm broke up and it was announced that they had started a new band which was less hardcore and more rock. I even remember the Back to the Future theme they had for a bit. The Takehold Records Split EP and then finally their announcement of signing with Tooth & Nail Records was so thrilling to me. At that time Chris Carrabba was a relatively unknown underground band singer/vocalist but this band (FSF) really catapulted him to the forefront. “The Moon Is Down” is an album for everyone, every, single, person. There are really no faults in this debut record other than Chris having to leave and pursue some unsuccessful solo gig that wouldn’t amount to much (I kid). I believe that what started with this band is the reason Dashboard Confessional had the momentum and push that it did. If it wasn’t for those Florida boys embracing their hardcore roots, reinventing “Emo”, then there wouldn’t have been the success they had and there certainly wouldn’t have been a Dashboard Confessional (Vagrant would be crying). So, thank you Strongarm and thank you FSF for making an album unlike any other in 2001. (The video below featured FSF vocalist, Jason Gleason, after Chris departed. You can also spot a cameo by Crissie of Element 101).
8. Stairwell – The Sounds of Change
[Not Front Cover]
This album originally released in 2001 on Takehold Records and later re-released through Hopeless Records in 2003 after the Takehold & Tooth & Nail merger. Ok, with that out of the way let’s talk about how great this album is. Some of the members of this band have a rich history in the Southern California music scene. This collective group has been in more bands than I can count. It’s like a complex mathematical equation just trying to peg down who is who and what these other bands were. So a couple of members of Bloodshed went on to start Slingshot David shortly after Bloodshed’s demise. The music was similar in feel and scope but a little different because of a change in vocalists. That band recorded some demos and released a full EP that was shelved (held) by a label they signed with and never released. So a couple of members dabbled in other bands and finally started Stairwell. I believe Neil Samoy who went on to play with Stavesacre among other bands (see I told you, mathematical equation), was vocalist for the early Stairwell stuff. After Neil left Jonathan Caro stepped up into lead vocalist position and they released 2 of the greatest power-pop-rock albums of all time that the world really never heard. The first album was “Pacific Standard Time” released on Takehold Records in 1999 and the second was “The Sounds of Change” which dropped in 2001 on Takehold. Both are near perfection but The Sounds of Change which was produced by James Paul Wisener, took it up to a whole other level. The production was great, the songwriting was really great, and the songs themselves are the catchiest that you’d ever heard. It was like pure pop perfection in the form of a rock band and something every rock station in 2001 could grasp on to. I could have totally seen Stairwell and Jimmy Eat World on tour together in 2001 (they actually may have played shows together in the early days). While the world embraced “Bleed American” (or ‘Self Titled’ for the freedom fry loving folks), we had our “Sounds of Change”.
9. Hangnail – Facing Changes
This album was a huge step up from their debut on BEC/Tooth & Nail back at the latter end of past decade. The production was better, songwriting better, and vocals were more cohesive. This album and “Transparent” are 2 faves in the Christian pop-punk realm. This band was extremely underrated and yet, definitely lacked nothing in the talent department. This was positive music that didn’t lack any substance. There was a certain sense youthful naivety that existed back then before all the jaded cynicism took root. Maybe that’s called middle age or forced societal negativity but whatever it is, the band certainly strayed far from it. Nothing but lighthearted, loving, Christ sharing pop-punk from a group of guys trying to carve out their own niche and figure out who they were at that time. Great stuff.
10. Starflyer 59 – Leave Here a Stranger
Starflyer 59 slowed things down a bit and introduced even more of a moody, introspective, and a quite delightful atmospheric sound on this album. By this time period I think there were 2 groups of fans, those that loved everything Jason Martin & Co. did and those that wanted the more loud, garage-y like wall of sound to continue. I was in the camp that loved it all and didn’t care what direction he/they took. This was my favorite SF59 album for a long time and I loved all of it, every single bit. As time went on, I really appreciated almost all their work with a couple exceptions from the 00’s that I may have glossed over. Jason Martin is a legendary and quite talented dare I say, “gifted”, musician and songwriter. I just can’t believe the quality of music that comes out of this project, nearly 30 years later. It’s incredible that more people still haven’t discovered the magic of SF59 and haven’t come to appreciate the diversity of sounds, experimentation, and all together “inspiring” set of sounds with each release. The stuff he’s been doing the past 10 years is just mind blowing as well. I’ll be an SF59 fan for life even long after they hang up their instruments and Jason Martin drifts off into obscurity, as a lost figure peeking out from the woods of yesteryear, only to be found by youthful dreamers of the future. At least that’s how I see it.
11. Relient K – The Anatomy of Tongue in Cheek
I was a fairweather Relient K fan on the first 2 albums. I thought some of it was Juvenile and and maybe a tad bit naive, but the beauty of music is that biases and subjective opinions should never separate us nor make one feel inferior. I’ve come to love this band’s music even some of their goofier moments. I think Matt T. has always had a knack for creative ways of expressing his thoughts and Faith through pop-punk in ways that maybe other likeminded artists may have struggled with. It was fun, inspiring, catchy and ear pleasing, maybe even a bit thought provoking. All of this goes to show that you can’t keep a good band down. This album was a departure of sorts from the debut. It was like the band was just starting to find themselves, figuring out who they were as people and musicians, while sharing their brand of hope with a generation desperately seeking meaning. This album was great, still is, and showcased a band that would deliver nothing but quality on the next 4+ albums. While there have been some missteps and maybe even little forgettable moments, the band’s music has been largely consistent. I’m holding out hope for a return to the sounds of the 00’s, not so much the 10’s. “Deathbed” off 5 Score and Seven Years Ago is still quite possibly the greatest pop-rock/punk song from the 00’s and its epic nature will forever hold a place in my heart.
12. ZAO – Self Titled
This record was heavy! Heavy and tribal at moments. A lot of bands, “heavy” bands, experimented with tribal-like rhythms and percussion that could have been complex at the time while also bass heavy. This album sounded good and showcased anger in ways most “Christian” bands didn’t know to express musically. 5 Year Winter was awesome. “Trashcan Hands” was the first song I can recall of a band calling out a negative fan who was filled with gossip and rumors. They approached these fans with the utmost in anger and vengeance but in the best way they could, METAL! There was always a huge amount of controversy surrounding ZAO and their music probably from the time that the band almost broke up after “Splinter Shards….” and it continued through their Solid State Days and into “The Funeral of God”. This album sounded really good from a production standpoint and had a different feel from the past 3 full lengths on Solid State. Even the Artwork reflected a band wanting to branch out a bit from some of the dark and moody presentation they’d been associated with. Don’t get me wrong, the pissed and angry ZAO was always there but it was more restrained if you will. Does that make sense? This 4th full length on their label was a fine album and a fine release for 2001.
13. The Blamed – Isolated Incident
Following up the changes that began with the “Germany” EP came this full-length record in 2001 titled “Isolated Incident”. The album was by far less metal/thrash and more on the post-Hardcore side of things. There was plenty of chaos, mathy elements, and lots of experimentation in sounds. I really dug this album when it first released but had to remind myself that it was a different band than what was heard on “21”, “Frail”, “Again”, and “Forever”. Moody and engaging, full of heart, and some beefy, yet underground sounding production. It sounded good for the time period and like anything you’d find on your favorite record label at that time (minus the Nsync, Limp Bizkit, Korn, Backstreet Boys, etc). It really starts out strong with the song “At The Moment” which was a perfect reintroduction to the (new) sounds of The Blamed. I would consider it melting of sounds, combining what you might hear if At The Drive In, Fugazi, Blenderhead, Refused, Blindside, and Training For Utopia had met up and collaborated on a record. I think The Blamed should be commended for the amount of time they’ve spent experimenting, diversifying sounds, and just being an all-around original band after nearly 30 years in the game.
14. Huntingtons – Songs in the Key of You
I wanna shoot myself in the foot for not giving more time to this record because it is one of the band’s strongest. It had a lighter sound, more akin to their very early work but with better sounding production. They’ll always have that Ramones influence, but I believe “Songs in the Key of You” was less “Get Lost” and more “Fun & Games” or “High School Rock”. It was pop-punk in its purer form and full of an album worth of FUN. This album marked the band’s final output for Tooth & Nail Records, with just “Self-Titled” following this one up before they took a break.
15. Sagoh 24/7 – …Then I Corrupt Youth
Ok, not exactly sure how to approach this write up in a non-biased manner. The sound on this record was 100 times better than the debut which we won’t talk about (for good reason). In case you are living under a rock, this band is the reason there even was an Anberlin to begin with. Had Stephen, Deon, and Joey not met, recorded 2 full length albums on a small indie label and connected with the right people, there wouldn’t have been the formation of one the great rock bands of our time, Anberlin. I really feel as though some of the sounds explored on this record ended but getting expanded upon on the fabulous Anberlin debut in 2003. The production on this album leaves a lot to be desired and is quite honestly underground diy band quality but the songs themselves and melodies stand the test of time. Even some of the subject matter. I love this album as much now as I did then and wish it would have had T&N’s budget. Anyway, songs like “Solace”, “Regrettable Paris”, “Hazing”, “Celeste’s Song”, and “Atlantis Reaching Infinity”,
16. Side Walk Slam – Past Remains
For a new pop-punk band on T&N, this effort was a strong debut. Most of the songs were short (and fast) as far as run time went but they were insanely catchy and well crafted. One a few songs the band took their Green Day influence a little too close to heart, but it didn’t matter because they had their own unique way of delivery. More in line with Value Pac than Green Day outright. Could have been a huge band had they kept going and maybe went with Drive Thru or Hopeless or even Vagrant. Not a knock on T&N at all but I did feel as though their music slipped under the radar at that time period and lost in the abyss of similar bands. Still a solid listen though and I raise a toast to a fabulous band that spawned Run Kid Run. Thank you.
17. Stretch Arm Strong – Revolution Transmission
Explosive, fast paced, melodic hardcore from this well-seasoned band. The band had 2 releases before signing with Solid State. This 2nd full length on the label was even better than the debut (‘Rituals of Life’) and one of their strongest recorded efforts. Just a slammin’ good time, crowd sweat and all. Their cover of the Counting Crows hit “Angels of the Silences” was probably the best hardcore rendition of a 90’s alt rock hit that I had heard up until that point. So good. I would love this band to make new music so let’s keep those fingers crossed. For the Record indeed….
18. Man Alive – Foreign Concepts
Man Alive hit the music scene without much notice in the late 90’s. This Israeli based melodic-pop-punk band had a lot of passion and a lot to say. If you blinked, you may have missed them. I had actually carried their debut full length via Men Of Israel Records in my IVM store back in 2001. Their sound was a cross between Ataris, MxPx, Useless ID, Watashi Wa, Dogwood. They had a unique sound, unlike most pop-punk I’d heard in the late 90’s to early 00’s. I had been a longtime fan and always have and my appreciation for their music probably grew more after I saw them in person. The band would go on and release a fantastic follow up “Work in Progress” some ep and compilation contribution then their big break, “Open Surgery” in 2005 on the great – The Militia Group record label. The band would go on to release another EP via Smart Punk, an incredible Self-Titled Full Length via an Israeli label (and in Japan as well), then ended with “A Light Goes On” in 2011 I believe which still serves as our scene’s finest punk rock offering. If this is the end of the 4-piece Israeli punk rock outfit then let my words serve as a perfect reminder of the power of music despite borders and cultures, geographic locations, and music tastes. The power of a catchy song and poetic words transcends all the nonsense, political posturing, and hatred that sometimes swallows the scene one chord at a time. May the music of Man Alive live forever!
19. Element 101 – Stereo Girl
This was the band’s 2nd full length after their first album which was a re-release itself, through Tooth & Nail Records. The band’s pop-punk offerings through their label home are some of the best female fronted rock out there. Just a great pop-punk band period. “Stereo Girl” had some strong songs, and I don’t think I listened nearly enough back when it dropped but I certainly appreciate what it is they did which was create catchy pop-punk songs to get you singing along.
20. Few Left Standing – Wormwood
This is a heavy as heck metal influenced hardcore record. The band released 2 albums on Takehold Records and this was their final output in 2001 (Later re-released by Solid State Records). The album is heavy, dark, aggressive and yet it had heart and a strong spiritual message. I hear a lot of tribal like sounds on this record, mostly from the percussion section. A few bands in the scene were playing a similar sound in their instrumentation like Living Sacrifice and ZAO which came out sounding really great and separated this record from some of the rest out there. Few Left Standing weren’t quite hardcore, they weren’t quite metal, they were themselves and carving out their own special place in the music scene. Sadly, the band broke up not long after the release.
No Innocent Victim – Tipping the Sales
Beloved – The Running EP
Evergreen Terrace – Losing All Hope is Freedom
The Caffiends – Closer to Defeat
Anchor – Ship Wrecked Life
xDisciplex A.D. – Heaven & Hell
Point of Recognition – Refresh, Renew
Hopesfall – No Wings to Speak of
Narcissus – Becoming Leviathan
The Dingees – The Crucial Conspiracy
Flight 180 – Girls & Boys