Alternative worship band Citizen's has been one of the most consistently excellent worship bands of the last decade. In a genre that often has trouble distinguishing itself from one another, Zach Bolen and co. stand among the upper tier of groups delivering the full package of artistry. Balancing devotional lyrics and musical intrigue is sadly rare, but never fear; the band pulls it off expertly once again. On this their fifth full-length album since their debut in 2013, we find a band self-assuredly tackling an oft-attempted, but rarely well-executed, topic of joy. And boy, did 2020 need an album like this. Among other things, their newest venture titled, The Joy of Being is... Refreshing. Timely. Ardent. Exuberant. Time well spent. Too short.
Wasting no time producing a highlight, the first track "Heaven Is In Our Sights" makes an unabashed attempt at this reviewer's overall favorite moment right out of the gate. Taking the slow-burn route, the song begins with a drum beat mimicking a heartbeat as Bolen's voice strains to the point of near cracking with passionate worship. All throughout the album, the use of horns creates a buoyant lift, and the bridge has a satisfyingly stadium-sized build that demands to be sung loudly to the rafters. Only after setting the tone do they follow with the exuberantly declarative "Only Jesus," which further features brass instrumentation and kicks the tempo into high gear. "All I Need" is another standout that tenderly recognizes, "And here at the table of wine and broken bread I find/All I need/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/You are all I need."
"Forgive Us" smartly pairs guest vocalist Jess Ray's muscular voice to the airy music for a delightful contrast that works well on the all-too-short track. Returning to a driving tempo, "Light of Your Grace" has a deliciously funky bassline and crisp snare combo. The combination of the rhythm section and sing-and-response with a chorus of children's voices will likely set your toes tapping and spread a big smile across your face. "Joy To Be" sways and saunters, led primarily by a gospel piano (though the guitar solo near the end is certainly worth mentioning too) and a terrific vocal performance from Chaunda Jefferson. The verses are both similarly top-notch, but it's the chorus that really hits home hardest proclaiming the truth that, "Oh the joy to be, joy to know/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."
Lastly, Citizens brings us full circle, closing things much like they began with the other nominee for the top song of the record, "Altogether Good." Sandra McCracken lends her seasoned voice in a mixture of sorrow and wonder as they join together to declare God's goodness, "In the longing of our souls/In the darkness where we go/You are there, You are love/You are altogether good/In the weakness of our faith/In the silence where we wait/You are here, You're enough/You are altogether good." Amen to that.
Overall, at only eight tracks and thirty minutes of runtime, perhaps the only real complaint about "The Joy of Being" is that it's over too quickly. This is no real problem, however, as it leaves me all-too-happy to hit the replay button and find something else to love about the craftsmanship of these uplifting tunes. Unsurprisingly, Citizens has done it again, further cementing their status as one of the best worship-based acts in Christian music. Remarkably, another album has cracked my top five of the year, further disrupting the now crowded running list. Ultimately, this is a must-hear for fans of the band, as well as those on the hunt for a little joyous encouragement in their life. This would be a great one for fans of Kings Kaleidoscope, Rivers & Robots, Mission House, and Young Oceans to check in on, and a contender for this reviewer's top-ten of the year.- Review date: 10/10/20, written by Josh Balogh of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Running Club Records
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