Album Review: Zach Bolen – 1001

by Mark Woodhouse

Zach Bolen, front man of Seattle band Citizens and Saints, is set to release his first solo project 1001. And, boy, it’s good.

Bolen’s explicitly Christian music comes through Citizens and Saints. So what we have here is a collection of honest, illuminating, and sometimes heartbreaking songs about life and love and relationships and the ups and downs of life.

1001 is a collection of songs written over the last twelve years, and yet still seems to come together into a coherent album. Sure, there’s a fair bit of variation as Bolen moves from energetic rock to acoustic to alt-country with Wilco vibes. But his distinctive voice lends sonic unity, and his candid and sincere lyrics give a thematic unity as we see the same man laid out before us time and time again.

Indeed, this is an album that will make you feel. From the exciting and giddy prospects of opener 95 to the confusion of Stay Runaway to the melancholic but determined I Will Let You Down, Bolen’s heart and mind is on display to be seen and his emotional journey is there to be experienced. And it’s not just the lyrics. Stay Runaway builds in a tense and anxious way, drums crashing and electric guitar wandering bewildered, as Bolen struggles with the desire to hold onto a failing relationship.

Bolen has a distinctive voice, which cuts through and yet sits perfectly in each song. The guitars are often gritty and sometimes chime. The bass grooves especially shine in What They’ll Never Find. The songs are mixed well, and the album sounds great for something done on such a tight budget.

If there’s a weakness, it’s the slower songs in the middle of the album. Holding You Close and Leave Me Alone just didn’t grab me as the others did, and haven’t stuck in my head as well. This is not to say they’re bad songs. In fact, it shows the sheer strength of this album that I’m even calling them the weakness of the thing!

1001 is a very strong foray into solo territory for Zach Bolen. Great song writing, incisive and honest lyrics, and some great guitar means that I’ll be listening to this for a long time to come. 4.5/5

zach-1001 by Zach Bolen will be released on June 3rd. It can be pre-ordered now on iTunes. Watch this space for our feature interview with Zach about the album next week.

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