The most noticeable thing about the newest album from Citizen – a three-piece rock group out of Toledo – is the rhythm. “These songs were mostly built from drums and bass first, which was different for us. I’d start with a completely different beat every time to get a certain energy,” says Max Kerekes, the group’s lead singer. While the group traditionally considers themselves metal, this album plays a lot with style and substance. Everything comes back to the drums and base and then layers in rhythm guitar and melody to provide a rich, full sound to Kerekes. This very much is the sound of a band that was on Vans’ Warped Tour. There’s still the energy and aggression of traditional metal, but there are also big soaring pop hooks, techno/electronic elements, and milder alternative rock. Some of these songs would have been right at home in the mid-2000s and I mean that in the best way.
The album opens with heavy guitars that settle into a danceable anthem track (the appropriately named “Death Dance Approximately”). The aggression of the music and the vocals speak to the band’s metal influence but it’s still a toe-tapping dance track, a genre fusion that’s really interesting to me. That drums-centric approach to anchoring every song, combined with the anthemic choruses, sounds like a contemporary take on The Foo Fighters.
The first two singles (at the bottom of the post) show some – but certainly not all – of the versatility of the album. “I Want to Kill You” is a lot more danceable and less angsty than the name might suggest. It’s got a chorus built to shout along to and verses that are strong, anchored by great drums. Nick Hamm and Eric Hamm provide the driving guitar and bass that serves as the backbone of this song.
“Blue Sunday,” by contrast, is a mellower song with big, shimmering guitars and distorted vocals. Even within this song it moves from reminiscent of The Killers to a breakdown somewhere out of the 90s. Everything about the song feels like Citizen, but it’s also a dramatic expansion in terms of their various writing and production elements from previous albums. Nick Hamm said: “This time we really owned every part of the process. It’s easy to feel like you’re on autopilot when you’re in a band, but that’s not a good place to be this far into our existence.” This sound is bigger, bolder, and more experimental. The band built a studio in Kerekes’ home in Toledo (the so-called “Glass City”) so that they could exert more control over the process. To be self-sufficient. That freedom and control shows up throughout the album.
Overall this is an album about struggle and filled with melancholic themes but despite the heavy lyrical content, everything is rooted to those drums and guitars, the melodies that imbue it with hope and choruses that beg to be sung along to. There are a ton of influences at play and the band switches between them over the album but often on each individual song. “Edge of the World” gives it a hopeful finale, that despite how heavy the world can be, we’re all capable of rising above the challenges in the end. “At the end of the day, there is beauty in tragedy” Kerekes sings on the album’s closer. “I hope you learn to love yourself.” It’s an optimistic, hopeful message for these trying times.
Life in Your Glass World is due out March 26th via Run For Cover Records.
Check out their pre-released tracks here!