Published Jun 22, 2015In most circumstances, it takes a great deal of time for a fledgling band to find their sound and fully come into their own, but as Citizen have proven with their latest offering, Everybody is Going to Heaven, it's not always the case.
Progressing rapidly from their early pop punk to 2013's emo-inflected Youth, the five-piece have now found their own unique sonic space with their most recent work. Contrasting eerie, brooding moments with saccharine beauty and raw emotional frailty, Citizen harness specific stylistic traits from heavy alt-rock and grunge circa the late '90s and early '00s, evoking Brand New and the Jesus Lizard, and fuse these elements into something altogether different — and immensely powerful.
With this album, Citizen veer from the path taken by many of their contemporaries and their more recent work — the trend to drift towards lighter, airier sounds and motifs — and boldly take the exact opposite route, delving into grimy, utterly sour and unnerving dissonance juxtaposed with beautifully atmospheric breaks of clarity. It's in songs like "Stain" and "Ten" that this effect is the most apparent, the former lodging a gorgeous, multi-textured chorus between the primal and abrasive discord that fills the rest of the song and the latter cycling between creeping, bass-driven verse lines and explosive bursts of energy.
The band's songwriting has reached new highs, and they experiment with more intricate and unconventional song structures that ultimately make the hooks — which are the most memorable the band have ever written — stand out, and the most driving, captivating moments more distinct, as evidenced by "Numb Yourself" and "My Favorite Color," respectively. Even the ordering of the songs themselves, find the gentler, more melodically driven tracks strategically interweaved between the more robust songs, enhancing the pattern of ebb and flow found throughout the album.
Mat Kerekes' vocals add another layer of depth to Everybody is Going to Heaven altogether, employing ranges only dabbled with in previous material, going from sinister half-whispers to full-blown screams and cooing falsettos. Regardless of the atmosphere established by the instrumentals, Kerekes manages to amplify it tenfold, with the sincerity and unfiltered emotion found in his voice. "Dive Into My Sun" and "Yellow Love" are brought to life with subtle harmonies, while "Stain" and "My Favorite Color" are punctuated by harsher elements of his range. "Ring of Chain" culminates as the brightest and most optimistic of all the songs, and showcases Kerekes' mid-range as well, closing the album with a stunning, memorable string section.
From the subtle production effects to the ambitious songcraft and stark, artful lyricism, this album surpasses their previous efforts in every way, and is a monumental achievement. With Everybody is Going to Heaven, Citizen have forged a visceral, stunningly nuanced work that is nothing short of immaculate. (Run For Cover)