On their powerful new album Life In Your Glass World, Citizen continue to breath new, fresh life into their emo-infused alternative rock style, injecting a heavy dose of raw emotion whilst still effortlessly meandering between sensitive cuts and head-bangers.
‘Life In Your Glass World’ opens with the dark and biting Death Dance Approximately, a fuzzed out track which quickly sets the tone of the album, founded on a post-punk revival riff. It’s reminiscent of early Arctic Monkeys and just as danceable. The sense of degeneration (‘everything keeps on getting a little worse’) prevails throughout the album, which tells the story of a mutually toxic relationship which seems to be slowly destroying both partners. The second track, the bluntly titled I Want To Kill You, sums up this feeling. Sadly, the hook isn’t quite enough to carry this song, and though the drummer does their best to inject some energy, its not enough to make it anything greater than ‘Death Dance Approximately Part 2’.
The pulsating beats on almost every cut detracts from the energy each track attempts to bring. The quality of the songwriting is enough to instill the danceable energy the band is hankering for; the exhausting, repetitive beats are more of an annoyance than a party-bringer. This is especially noticeable on Call Your Bluff, which would be skippable if not for its refreshing guitar solo. This may be explained by the fact that the band, for the first time, no longer has a full-time drummer, having shed Jake Duhaime in 2019.
The highlights of the album appear when the band explores brand new territory, especially on Blue Sunday. It feels like a woozy change of pace, still with the fuzzed out, analog sounding production but matched with dreamy, Tame Impala influenced guitars and synths. The distorted but melodic vocals cement this track as the thematic centerpiece of Life In Your Glass World. It also demonstrates the power of Citizen’s drive for cohesiveness – despite Blue Sunday being a multi-phased rhapsody, you never forget which song you’re listening to. It’s a beautiful microcosm of the album as a whole.
But it’s the song Fight Beat which really knocked me off my feet. This is partly because it sounds strikingly like Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy, with its liquid bass line, hip hop influenced beat and monotonous whisper singing. But its also one of the most experimental and subversive songs on the album. With its strangled, glitchy synths and The Caretaker-style samples, it is clearly a case of the producer showing off – and it works. This challenging track feels like an oasis – not of calm, but of choas.
The production here sticks to a pretty firm formula. Most tracks match distorted vocals with fuzzy guitars, prominent walls of bass and dry, even mixing. But this hasn’t been done out of laziness or lack of vision, but the opposite. The band have distilled the emotion that weaves itself into the fabric of this record into a fine texture of production. It results in a superbly formulated tapestry. More than that, it adds special emotional power to the lighter moments, such as on ‘Glass World’ and ‘Winter Buds,’ making them particularly memorable.
The thematic narrative of the album resolves in the most satisfying way possible on Edge of the World, the final track. Following a path laid out by The Strokes, it describes the protagonist realising that ‘although [he] feels undone, he’s got so much to offer.’ It maintains the album’s emotional themes, but with a sense of tear-welling hope with oozes out of every aspect of the production and instrumentation. It feels like gazing over out across the sea at dawn, with darkness behind you, but a golden sun rising in the distance. The thesis of the album is summed up in this final song: ‘there is beauty in tragedy… I hope you learn to love yourself.’ As Citizen’s Bandcamp page puts it, the song it truly is ‘the kind of affirmation that makes you reexamine everything you just heard with a newfound perspective.’
Life In Your Glass World may not define a generation, but it does something all artists aspire to do: convey emotion in the most beautiful and relatable way possible. Using their foundations of excellent lyricism and songwriting, Citizen have mastered the art of track sequencing and story telling. They the unique gift of making an album sound flawlessly cohesive without it becoming boring or overly formulaic, able to experiment and deviate whilst still sticking to the blueprint. On Life In Your Glass World, Citizen have proven themselves to be worthy of respect, not just as musicians, but as artists.