Andy: "… the Newsboys' best album to date … Not many bands a decade and a half into their career can continue to evolve with as much ease as the Newsboys, all while maintaining their position as a thriving force in Christian music."
Russ: "… the band's best work since 1996's Take Me to Your Leader … I'd be happy to see them play twenty more years if they can keep making music this good."
The Benjamin Gate
Andy: " … much more accessible and down to earth than their debut … Moments of plain old fun and excitement are appropriately balanced out with tactful presentations of spiritual truths in a culturally relevant manner."
Todd: "Contact delivers all the confidence, sound, and force of The Benjamin Gate's debut, but adds greater musical maturity and improved lyrical depth."
Shane Barnard & Shane Everett
It's worth mentioning that this album was independently released in April 2001. However, it was only widely distributed beginning June 2002. We also suspect that most critics did not fairly consider Psalms for their 2001 best-of lists because it was an independent release at the time.
Mike: " … catchy and insightful songwriting … I can't say enough good things about this one without repeating myself – it's simply one of the year's very best."
Russ: " … the musicianship is excellent … Shane and Shane have succeeded spectacularly, effortlessly combining worship, Scripture, and art."
Then Is the New Now
Todd: " … I haven't found another album this year whose lyrics relate more to me. Denison Marrs isn't only talented with the pen – the tight musicianship is top notch."
Russ: "Their lyrics are vivid, poetic, and meaningful … undoubtedly one of the best modern rock bands in Christian music today."
Andy: "Denison Marrs shines on their first national release, showcasing increased continuity between each song's lyrical construction and the musical backdrops that encompass them."
The Art of Translation
Russ: " … the most authentic, original, and catchy Christian hip-hop project of the year … This stuff actually is better than the majority of mainstream hip-hop acts."
Todd: "Along with other strong releases from Christian rappers this year … GRITS proves again that rap can light up the party and be relevant. In fact, this solid work by GRITS shows that hip-hop is truly an art form."
Myself When I Am Real
Amy: "With beautiful acoustic guitars, this mixture of folksy, contemplative songs and unpretentious pop creates a warm, thoughtful atmosphere. Definitely [Bebo's] most intimate, expressive album to date … "
Mike: "The worshipful radio hit "Great Light of the World" is one of his best songs ever, and is reason in itself to pick up this album – but just for you, Mr. Norman has graciously sweetened the deal with eleven other folk-pop gems."
The Eleventh Hour
Jars of Clay
Andy: " … [Jars of Clay couches] their messages amidst a sea of metaphoric poetry and a lush combination of guitar strums and effective orchestration."
Russ: "These guys have always been good, but they've hit their stride with [The Eleventh Hour], showing great promise for things to come."
Mark: "An intelligent, well-conceived, and brilliantly executed rock album."
Amy: "The band blends innovative instrumentation with provocative lyrics about their continued wrestling with deep issues of faith … A pillar in the contemporary Christian music market, Jars doesn't disappoint with their newest release."
Sparrow / Dreamworks
Russ: "I applaud the efforts of artists such as Lifehouse, who have successfully brought songs that are inspired by Christian faith to the attention of millions … What fascinates me about Lifehouse is how much more meaningful their songs become after repeated listens … the band members are taking a significant step forward as musicians and songwriters."
Mike: " … this album was created with a level of excellence that is rare … each song offers something of hope and value to the listener who has ears to hear what [Lifehouse is] really trying to say."
A Place Where You Belong
Amy: "This album is refreshingly honest about our emotions and the realities of life in this world … These thought-provoking lyrics and rich melodies are rare in Christian music, and I think The Normals deserve huge acclaim for venturing out into uncharted waters."
Russ: " … the passion of a U2 ballad, the creativity of a Peter Gabriel production, the sophistication of a Sting album, and the thoughtful faith-based songwriting of Caedmon's Call … A Place Where You Belong is a rewarding listen when time is taken to truly savor it."
Todd: "Daily Planet's Hero is one of those CDs that will have you singing along by the end of songs as though they were old favorites, even if you've never listened to them before … a surprisingly sharp, rich sounding, and quality rock debut to have fun with."
Mike: " … a great album because it isn't trying to follow a trend or be 'the next anything' … simply a great pop/rock record, a trendsetter, and one of the highest quality debuts I've ever heard."
Russ: "Hero isn't just the best debut album of the year – it's one of the year's best, period … a remarkably talented rock band with a strong sense of melody, and an excellent way with lyrics that should rightfully earn them a large following in Christian music and beyond."
Andy: " … each band member's enthusiasm is contagious. Whether listening to the disc, seeing them in concert, or better yet, chatting with them one on one, the guys will put a smile on your face and direct your heart to the right place."
Amy: "Daily Planet's debut is sure to gain them huge popularity … this group definitely sounds like guys having a good time jamming away. But the CD is sure to win over many female listeners as well, as it did me."
All Right Here
Mark: "Great singer/songwriters have a knack for making the listener say, 'Yes, that's exactly what I was trying to say! I wish I could've put it like that!' Sara not only does that, but takes it a step further, digging even deeper into your soul and making you say, 'Wow, I didn't even know that's what I wanted to say!'"
Todd: "It's obvious that the former English teacher's strength lies in relating to those listening and putting her thoughts into words … On this inspirational piano and guitar-based folk project, Groves shows that she is one of the most gifted songwriters and storytellers in music today."
Russ: "You can appreciate every track like a work of literature, stimulating the mind and touching the heart after several repeat listens. To me, Sara epitomizes what it means to be a "Christian artist," balancing songs of love to her husband and son with songs of praise to God, and songs that question faith with songs that offer the answer."
Andy: " … Groves has not only matched but surpassed [her] quality label debut with her latest ethereal masterpiece … If you're looking for thought-provoking sentiments, moving balladry, and crystalline vocals, they're 'all right here.'"
Amy: "Sara's artistic flair and propensity toward being reflective have made her one of this year's greatest singer/songwriters. "
Mike: "This album secured itself in this list upon my first listen to the unmastered version of this gem … Let that speak for the power of Sara's songwriting."
Sixpence None the Richer
Reprise / Warner
Mike: "Their fourth studio project masterfully accomplishes the daunting task of discussing some of the most difficult things in life in surprisingly beautiful and effective ways … All thirteen tracks work together to make the most satisfying and complete album of 2002. "
Andy: "The fact that Sixpence is willing to offer up praise while subsequently trudging through the muck of earthly frustrations only complements their instrumental ingenuity. It's a winning recipe several years in the making that will leave listeners at various points in their faith walk divinely content."
Russ: "… the best work Sixpence None the Richer has ever done … a masterpiece … Sixpence seems truly comfortable with their abilities, expanding their musical palette to vary with Matt and Leigh's poetic lyrics."
Todd: " … the songwriting is the strong suit on this follow-up to [their] self-titled 1998 breakthrough … Albums as stirring, deep, polished, and pretty as this don't come around often."
Mark: "One of Christian music's most intelligent and creative bands … Leigh Nash's ethereal voice, never better, lilts over and under and through the melodies … There's not a weak point on the album."
Amy: "After a five-year stint without a record, Sixpence definitely used their time to sharpen their writing skills and perfect the lush acoustic rock songs that appear on Divine Discontent."
Awakening — Gersh
By Surprise — Joy Williams
City on a Hill: Sing Alleluia — Various Artists
Collaborations — KJ-52
The Fault Is History — Souljahz
Hi-Fi Revival — The O.C. Supertones
Last One Picked — Superchic[k]
Legacy … Hymns & Faith — Amy Grant
O2 — Tonéx
Ripley County Blues — Glenn Kaiser
Worship God — Rebecca St. James
Woven & Spun — Nichole Nordeman
By Albert H. Lee