Citizens – The Joy Of Being

Integrity Music

Release Date: October 2nd 2020

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Citizens– The Joy Of Being (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. Heaven Is In Our Sights (feat. Shea Salibury)
  2. Only Jesus Christ
  3. Holy Love (feat. Taylor Leonhardt)
  4. All I Need
  5. Forgive Us (feat. Jess Ray)
  6. Light Of Your Grace
  7. Joy To Be (feat. Chaunda Jefferson)
  8. Altogether Good (feat. Sandra McCracken)

Today, in this day and age, consumerism floods our hearts, souls and minds. We long to buy the latest ____ and we often discard the old very quickly in favour of the new shiny toy that has captured our fleeting attention. Sadly, the same goes with Christian music- worship music in particular… and songs are sung in churches for a time, and then instantly forgotten. On the flip side though, there are a few songs sung to death on Sunday mornings in churches… but generally the consensus is that if something is more than a couple of years old- it’s old and irrelevant. I guess this mentality though is why we still have an abundance of worship music flooding the radio and on our Apple Music and Spotify playlists- we’re creatures of restlessness by nature, and once we impart something, we don’t dwell and ruminate- instead we move on pretty quickly. Yet one such fairly recent album that I have been blessed to listen to over the past few weeks and months, and one that I have bene impacted by greatly; need not be simply glossed over. For CITIZENS’ latest album the Joy Of Being, their fifth in their career, is one of the most authentic, honest, inspiring, emotional and vulnerable albums in 2020- and you guys definitely need to check ou this album pronto… and then keep on playing these songs for the many months and years to come! Yep, I said years… it’s that powerful.

Now, here’s a disclaimer- I have not been up to date with CITIZENS’ music. I know they’ve released 5 albums and briefly changed their name to Citizens & Saints midway through their career… but that’s all I know. The lead singer is Zach Bolen, but other than that, I’m approaching the album as a new listener. Quite frankly as well, I don’t think I would have checked out and explored CITIZENS had they not signed to Integrity Music. Is that saying something of my apprehension to explore independent artists and my overreliance on the supposed professionalism and instant epicness or awesomeness of albums released by signed artists? Maybe. But let’s curb our preconceptions of what makes a great worship album. And let us come into The Joy Of Being with little to no assumptions. And that’s when true worship can begin.

Opening the track list is the sombre, reflective yet ethereal and mysterious “Heaven Is In Our Sights”, as Zach and guest vocalist Shea Salisbury ardently declare that the sight of heaven isn’t that far away, that we can see God’s kingdom here on earth in His creation and in His people. As we long for the day that we can see Jesus face to face and bask in His glory forever, let us remember that while we are here on this earth, our purposes aren’t fulfilled yet- we can have heaven in our sights, and we can hope and dream…. but rather than feel despondent about the world we live in, let us use heaven as something to look forward to, and a catalyst to want to live life right with the people around us today. Next up is the poppy “Only Jesus Christ”, which basically spells out the gospel. Musically extremely catchy and easy to move to, we are reassured that ‘…You are the way, the truth, and the life, You are the blood, the water, the vine, You are the word and You are the light, only Jesus, only Jesus…’; while the pulsating mid-tempo ballad “Holy Love” is a magical and out-of-this-world ballad with Taylor Leonhardt, whereby Zach rephrases 1 Corinthians 13, and essentially recounts the eternal characteristics of God’s unending love. With “Holy Love” being a standout on this already captivating and spine-tingling album, these three songs alone should encourage you to check out CITIZENS if you haven’t already.

“All I Need”, one of the longest songs on the album, has Zach channelling his inner Elias Dummer vocally (from the City Harmonic), and has him eloquently relaying to us that Jesus Himself is all we need in this life to survive, that ‘…You are all I need, in the air I breathe, in the joy of being, hidden in Your time, until the life ahead, You are all I need…’; while the fervent and eloquent prayer “Forgive Us” with Jess Ray, is short at 2 minutes, but nonetheless is extremely poignant, heartfelt, and necessary in this political and economic climate whereby we all are divided based on secondary issues. “Light Of Your Grace” brings the tempo back up into poppy territory, as Zach channels Mike Donehey vocally, and declares God’s goodness because of His grace and His love for us, that ‘…in the light of Your grace, You end my darkness, in the light of Your grace, my burdens lose their weight, in the light of Your grace, You lift my head up, in the light of Your grace, my sin is washed away…’; while the quasi-hymn-ish worship anthem and gospel inspired “Joy To Be” brings a smile to my face, with Zach proclaiming that all He wants is the joy of Jesus Christ, that ‘…it’s when I decrease, You fill up my soul, what a joy to see, joy to hold, it’s when You increase, I want nothing more…’.

The Joy Of Being then sadly and unexpectedly ends with the God breathed and Holy Spirited anointed “Altogether Good”, beautifully sung with Sandra McCracken, and highlighting to us that Jesus is good all the time, not just in our times of joy and happiness, but also and especially in our times of hurt, pain and suffering. We may not understand God’s apparent silence in our direst of situations, but let us remember that God’s ways are higher than our own, and that He has a plan and a purpose hat goes far beyond our finite understanding. There’s also a sense of brokenness and vulnerability here on this track- and the emotion that describes the tension of believing God is good when the signs point to that He’s not; is quite moving and inspiring to listen to. No doubt this track will bring healing and comfort to a lot of people questioning God and His goodness. And as we sing out that ‘…in the longing of our souls, in the darkness where we go You are there, You are love, You are altogether good…’; let us remember that God’s word never fails, and that He is with us in the valley.

Nothing much more needs to be said about Citizens’ new album The Joy Of Being. It’s way too short though, however these 8 songs are recorded and using to perfection. If there’s ever a church worship album that we all can use as a template or blueprint for how we as people should go about our Sunday morning worship services… then this album is it. With this album intriguing my interest to explore the rest of CITIZENS’ discography, this album is for those who are hungry for authentic worship, and are longing for something different. And if you haven’t heard of Citizens until now, never fear. This is the album that I’d say to start off with first. So what are you waiting for? take a listen, close your eyes, and let God minister to your soul!

3 songs to listen to: Holy Love, All I Need, Altogether Good

Score: 5/5

RIYL: The City Harmonic, Leeland, All Sons And Daughters, The Gray Havens, Jenny & Tyler, Needtobreathe, Phil Wickham

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