Top 15 Relient K Songs

A young, obnoxious high school freshman squeaked about a “sweet” band taking up the Air1 stage in the early afternoon at Spirit West Coast in 2001.  Based on her adolescent enthusiasm and what I’d heard about the group, I wanted nothing to do with Relient K.  I knew about bands like this — four chords, pop tendencies, and loads of meaningless lyrics. Good Charlotte and Blink 182, genre contemporaries at the time, had worn me out to the pop-punk fad, and I decidedly skipped the concert in favor of other more “serious” bands.

I was 20, and though my assessment of Relient K was initially correct, my know-it-all attitude didn’t let me come around on them for another two records. The group has now released seven full-length albums over fifteen years, and fortunately, both I and the band have grown up. The band’s work turned a corner in the mid-2000s with a pair of spectacular compositions (Mmhmm and Five Score), and some of Matt Thiessen’s personal experiences fueled further material that many have decidedly overlooked.

Fifteen years is a nice round number; therefore, fifteen is the amount of songs I’ve chosen for this particular list of what I believe are the best Relient K songs. The “best” may not resonate with the casual listener who is most familiar with their most popular tracks, or the purist who fell in love with their early teenage angst persona. I left off many of the trademark silly songs that might qualify as favorites, but do not reflect the band’s best work.

To avoid looking like a hipster, I’ve only included songs from their LPs, omitting tracks from smaller releases (which often features songs on upcoming albums nonetheless).

15) Be My Escape

Mmhmm (2004)

This post-“Sadie Hawkins Dance” hit kicks off my list of Relient K’s best work so far.  Firing off with a tempo that fans of yore are familiar with, “Be My Escape” serves up contemplative lyrics with an ambiguous nod to the Lord to appease the Christian fans while maintaining radio savvy for the casual listener.

14) Candlelight

Forget and Not Slow Down (2009)

A peppy yet sardonic track on an otherwise somewhat dark and introspective album, “Candlelight” makes you laugh, and then makes you think about people you know that also “pinch the nerves in all the necks when she turns those heads around.”

13) Falling Out

Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right…But Three Do (2003)

Relient K is among the best at using double entendre, and “Falling Out” plays with language to a degree that most listeners to Two Lefts probably didn’t even notice.  These folks probably had “Chap Stick” on repeat, most likely, and missed the sincere expression of the everyday Christian’s stumbling and rediscovery of grace.

12) I Am Understood?

Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right…But Three Do (2003)

Thiessen knows he’s understood, but is shocked that God might even bother — and aren’t you, just the same?  The song begins with a simple contemplation, and gradually climbs into a frenzy, finishing off with a desperate, repetitive cry for the singer’s own understanding.

11) Breakdown

The Anatomy of the Tongue In Cheek (2001)

A classic high-octane pop-punk track, but more serious than one might expect, this piece of work gives us a glimpse of Relient K’s potential with songwriting, using an otherwise silly scenario as a grand metaphor for the way God puts us in a precarious state to get our attention, often successfully. It’s great fun to listen to and sing along with, of course.

10) Bite My Tongue

Five Score and Seven Years Ago (2007)

Another standout song on an album that is laced with sugary pop numbers, “Bite My Tongue” is sweet on contact, but sour as you swallow the words. It’s still a tasty treat musically, swinging between a melodic mid-tempo chorus and a pair of tense verses that make you thirsty for more.

9) This Is the End (If You Want It)

Forget and Not Slow Down (2009)

The avid Relient K follower is conscious of Matt Thiessen’s heartbreaking journey behind his work. Much of Forget and Not Slow Down was written in an apparent state of disrepair and sorrowful contemplation, and “This Is the End (If You Want It)” is the capstone to an album that deserves way more attention than it’s received. The two-part song wavers between a bitter discourse and quiet acceptance of a breakup he clearly lived over and over again in his mind, and truly sends the listener into his world of anguish without appearing self-deprecating.

8) Forget and Not Slow Down

Forget and Not Slow Down (2009)

On the other end of this masterful album, the title track leans toward a more resolute attitude at the point of breaking. Our chief desire as followers of Christ is to move on when we’ve clearly erred, and the singer yearns for it all to pass. “Pour over me and wash my hands of it,” he begs of the Lord.

7) I Don’t Need A Soul

Forget and Not Slow Down (2009)

This contagious song warrants radio airplay, but a Christian station would rather not address this tune that dives into steep contemplation about how “it could be worse” yet it certainly doesn’t feel like it.  Featuring powerful yet simple guitar work and sharp drum work, anyone that hasn’t given this soul-jarring song a chance is truly missing out.

6) Down In Flames

The Anatomy of the Tongue In Cheek (2001)

Sheer anger over Christian infighting and an overlaying metaphorical theme of a plane wreck characterize this gem of a song from their second album. Thiessen warns the listener of the dangerous double-talk that comes from believers’ mouths, which he accurately relates to cannibalism, and the woeful prospect of ignoring all those on the outside who watch this deplorable behavior. The first 20 seconds or so features some really nice guitar work for such a high tempo.

5) Which to Bury, Us or the Hatchet?

Mmhmm (2004)

This one gave me chills the first time I heard it.  I confess that it still does. This song is quite possibly the best illustration of how a break-up feels, especially one that you just can’t quite let go of. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re falling out of love, or if you’re just plain falling.

4) I So Hate Consequences

Mmhmm (2004)

Even my two year old daughter loves this song, but mostly because of the raucous intro.  The song literally feels like it’s sprinting from the start, and then runs out of gas at the end — the precise intent. And is the profundity we get at the conclusion:

When I got tired of running from you
I stopped right there to catch my breath
There your words they caught my ears
You said, “I miss you son. Come home”
And my sins, they watched me leave
And in my heart I so believed
The love you felt for me was mine
The love I’d wished for all this time
And when the doors were closed
I heard no I told so’s
I said the words I knew you knew
Oh God, Oh God I needed you
God all this time I needed you, I needed you

3) Collapsible Lung

Collapsible Lung (2013)

What is a collapsible lung? I have no idea, but it seems unpleasant and not terribly useful. It’s synthetic, replaceable, yet the lung is an essential part of the body. It would take great explanation to expound on the song’s significance in the context of Relient K’s latest release, which appears to have been mostly scorned by regular Christian listeners, but in short, it simply addresses the core need of man: to feel loved. The singer fleetingly alludes to the desire to grow old with his (presumably) future spouse, but there’s a subtle aspect that draws the listener to a deeper truth; indeed, the sentiment of “who I am hates who I’ve been” has been amplified to a high degree.

2) Devastation and Reform

Five Score and Seven Years Ago (2007)

A minor key feast for the ears, a figurative lyrical structure, and a perfect vocal delivery from Thiessen. It even has a dash of pop-punk savvy for old school listeners. “Devastation and Reform” is the complete package, the perfect embodiment of everything Relient K has to offer. The intro to this song is the tastiest little melody you’ll hear today, hands down.

1) Deathbed

Five Score and Seven Years Ago (2007)

The word “epic” is thrown around a lot, but this song is literally such. In a ten minute masterpiece, Thiessen writes an all-too-realistic life tale of a man at his end, looking wistfully back at the wasted moments and irreversible mistakes he’s made, but in his contemplation, coming around to rediscover Jesus in his final hour. The song changes tempo and keys in a sometimes playful but otherwise clumsy 3/4 cadence, working in dissonant chords and discomforting vocal arrangements, and even features a toy piano near the conclusion. Despite a mixture of unsettling elements, the song reaches a quiet terminus, a catharsis for the listener.  It even features Jon Foreman as Jesus. In all, it’s a true work of art that’s hard to listen to twice, but impossible to forget.

 

I’m almost certain I missed your favorites.  What do you think?

Hey, I also found this Top 50 Relient K songs post after vainly checking to see where my own list was indexed on Google.  His work is excellent — I encourage you to check it out for further introspection. You won’t be disappointed!

One thought on “Top 15 Relient K Songs

  1. You nailed number 1 with Deathbed. I have this whole song on replay on the soundtrack of “Me”, that plays in mind often before I fall asleep at night. My number 2 all time is I So Hate Consequences for the same reason that you stated above. The conclusion on the song is a great reminder. Thanks for the list.

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