My Rating: 4.8 / 5
Few things are as painful as the dissolving of a church, and with it the variety of thoughts and emotions that come along. Citizens & Saints’ newest album comes out of the aftermath of such an event, asking questions about faith, doubt, failure, and Christ’s power and presence. The appropriately-named title describes the struggle, borrowing from the words of Paul the Apostle, we see through A Mirror Dimly. Citizens & Saints beautifully describes life as a follower of Jesus Christ throughout its latest collection, backing eloquent and biblically-based lyrics with a variety of soft rock sounds.
“Crown Him” starts with one sole tone that opens into a majestic array of militantly tapping drums, electric guitar, and upbeat keyboard. The song rises from intro through the verses, escalating in a massive rush of sound for the chorus, and calming down once again for another verse – in a word, this song has motion. The sound is unique and borders between soft rock and worship, a welcome combination to this reviewer’s ears. Another strength to this song is the eloquence in the lyrics. They celebrate Jesus as the King of Kings, seated on the throne, nodding to similar proclamations in scripture with basic yet powerful words. The chorus is made of a few simple and beautiful lines: “Christ the King is Lord, crown Him, seated on His throne, hail Him, see the Lamb adorned, praise Him, glory in His love, praise Him!” Without a doubt, “Crown Him” is a very strong, regal, and majestic start for the album.
The next song, “Madness,” offers profound insight into a truth many gloss over. This track opens with very soft rock chords, comparable to Switchfoot or NEEDTOBREATHE. While there is an energy to the song, the tempo is moderate and the melody flows at a fairly consistent rate. Its lyrics are the main focus, expressing how immeasurable God’s wisdom is. In the eyes of the world, His word is madness, insanity, but, to paraphrase Paul in 1 Corinthians, “to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” His ways are not our ways, yet His truth is beautiful and gives us life. This track is one of very few across many a contemporary Christian album that address and explore this truth, thus the song stands out in the collection.
“Madness” ends with an outro piece that runs as the intro for the next song, “Faith.” This song tackles the struggle to believe His word and surrender our entire lives to Him. “Relent,” however, takes this idea and runs ahead with the idea of surrender. The instrumental focus for the majority of the song heavily rests on steady drums, allowing the vocals to take emphasis; however, a rush of bold and rising keyboard and guitar fuel the chorus with momentum. Alternating between two sides of surrender, the verses discuss the futility of trying to save ourselves and trying to work for our salvation in parallel with total and complete surrender to Jesus Christ. It’s a profound dichotomy in a beautifully orchestrated song with a fantastic, moving melody.
Continuing the progression, “Day By Day” is a snapshot into the life of the believer. Accelerating, soft electric guitar and gentle drums bring back the soft rock sounds for another track, a nice touch of variety that sets the song apart from several of the previous works. Its lyrics describe the change we experience in Christ, the peace and joy we experience. Though we stumble and fall, still fallible, His mercies are new every morning and day by day He draws us closer to Him. The exciting melody and relatable, personable lyrics make this song resonate with listeners. In five and a half minutes, “Day By Day” is where our story meets with His story.
From beginning to end, A Mirror Dimly tells a beautiful story. It’s our story – the story of people drowning in sin and shame until the King of Kings came as a servant and sacrificed Himself for the whole world. Half of the album worships Jesus Christ as Lord; the other half celebrates our new life and identity in Him. The album’s variety, from calm and contemplative tracks to energetic, momentum-packed rock, keeps listeners engaged and supports the band’s eloquent lyrics. Without question, Citizens & Saints’ A Mirror Dimly is well worth listening – it’s an enjoyable collection guaranteed to be a classic.