Citizens Return to Their Roots On ‘The Joy of Being’
Citizens is one of those groups I’ve only enjoyed in parts—their self-titled debut felt perhaps a bit too CCM for my taste. Join the Triumph fell in a similar vein. A Mirror Dimly, Fear, and Waking Up to Never Die broke this trend by diverging from worship, opting for more of a standard indie rock approach. It was the latter of the three that caught my interest—an EP strewn with an unmistakable ache and a sound that felt more heartfelt than the band’s early work.
Where does that leave The Joy of Being? Undeniably, it’s a worship album. In some respects, it feels like a return to form. “Only Jesus Christ” is perhaps the biggest evidence of this, with its poppy vibe and catchy hook. But at the same time, the closing track “Altogether Good” feels more like an Andy Squyres song rather than typical worship fare. In fact, it’s the kind of song that might even move you to tears.
Add in a cast of VIP guest performances and the album is well-rounded. Jess Ray is excellent in her own right, and she’s a perfect addition to “Forgive Us.” Taylor Leonhardt might still be a smaller artist, but she proves her merit on “Holy Love.” Sandra McCracken is the most-known guest, and she, along with a choir of fans, helps cement the emotional dynamic on the final track.
Apart from “Only Jesus Christ” and “Light of Your Grace,” much of the album is more stripped-back and a bit more vulnerable. The Joy of Being has some of the instrumental leanings of its predecessors while still providing a worship experience. There’s gospel, folk, and indie rock influence throughout these tracks—certainly not a CCM vibe for the most part.
Of course, if you’re a fan of some of Citizens’ earlier works or generally prefer more danceable tracks, “Only Jesus Christ” and “Light of Your Grace” might be right up your alley. Just be warned: the unexpected children’s choir on “Light of Your Grace” can be a bit spooky if you don’t see it coming.
Ultimately, The Joy of Being is a moving and powerful album bookended by some powerful and captivating tracks. Other highlight tracks include “Only Christ Jesus” (even with its pop feel, it’s still hard to dislike), “Holy Love,” and “All I Need.” It feels more artful and honest than early releases, showing a faith tested and tried by dry seasons and desert wanderings. And these are the kinds of sentiments the Church needs right now.