Any of Jars of Clay’s albums could make the cut for inclusion in this list (The Eleventh Hour and Who We Are Instead are particularly noteworthy), but Inland is probably their most daring and invigorating achievement yet. If any group could stake a claim to headlining the soundtrack of my childhood, it’d be either Jars of Clay or Newsboys or David Crowder Band, although I didn’t consciously connect their music with their names until half a year ago. There were a lot of U2 singles as well, some Enya here and Matchbox Twenty there, and the Moulin Rouge soundtrack was always a mainstay, but for the long family roadtrips my parents’ iPods would dependably return to one of six or seven albums by these bands, and as a result I sadly developed a kind of emotional numbness towards all of them. Inland was a relatively new addition to my family’s library and I was beginning to tire of it until I left for Beatissima and gave most Christian music a well-needed break to explore a host of other artists recommended by college friends whose uncouth vocals or abrasive production hadn’t been embraced at home. That’s artists with uncouth vocals, in case that wasn’t clear, though a good number of my college friends also have very explicit vocals. Most of those explicit friends have really sucky taste in music too, except for Billy, who’s contributed more to this Playlist than any other individual in spite of (or because of) all his eccentricities. Huge shoutout to Billy.
For a depressing period of two years I was a budding music snob who fooled myself into thinking I didn’t care at all for Jars of Clay. Then I met a bunch of real music snobs who transformed me into an even bigger snob who now humbly recognizes that Jars of Clay are one of the best things to impact music like ever, ever. They have all the alternative-indie cred of Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend, Modest Mouse, The xx, or insert hipster indie band you don’t listen to here on top of poetic, spiritually challenging lyrics that strengthen one’s faith instead of dumbing it down. To quote the venerable Rick Berman, it’s so dense, every single bar has so many things going on.