Album Review: Citizens & Saints – A Mirror Dimly

by Mark Woodhouse

Citizens & Saints have put down their synths and again taken up their guitars for their third album, A Mirror Dimly. And it’s a record born in turmoil.

Some of it has been very public, some of it very private. But whatever its cause, turmoil is a murky place, where it’s hard to see clearly and it’s easy to question what you’ve previously trusted so deeply.

So A Mirror Dimly is an album about faith and doubt.

I really appreciate the honesty of these songs. There’s no false joy, there’s no attempt to put on a brave face and say the ‘right thing’.  Zach Bolen sings in Madness that he’s “drowning in doubt like never before.

There is a genuine struggle at the heart of these lyrics, but there’s also a genuine and triumphant faith. “Faith is true sight, seen with new eyes.” The band have emerged from hard times with what seems like a joyous faith that is stronger than ever. The album ends with the climax to Doubting Doubts, where Bolen sings with elation that “I am loved no matter what.”

So I think we see two sides of the Christian life on this album. Some songs give voice and articulation to pain and doubt, to those times when it’s hard to sort out in your own head and heart what is happening and what you’re feeling. Others invite us to rejoice in the Lord whose name is majestic and who is crowned king of kings!

I particularly love the flow and feel of these lyrics. There’s nothing stilted or forced, no awkward syntax just to find a rhyme. Bolen sings:

The Man of sorrows crucified.

For love he bleeds, in love he dies.

His glory reigns.”

It’s a beautifully poetic reimagining of Scripture.

Except Kids. For some reason, the lyrics to this song don’t seem to me to be as refined. But then again, this song isn’t really about the poetry; it’s about the groove. It reminds me of the energy and vibe of their first album Citizens, and is one I’d love to sing with my church. And that’s especially so because it’s a song about our identity as those who belong to a loving Father who has adopted us as his children. What a great thing to be reminded of!

The weakest song on the album is Faith. But it’s the one that gets stuck in my head the most, and the one with the most interesting textures going on. So, make of that what you will.

Day By Day is my highlight. I love its drive, I love its feel, its melody, its build. I love that it’s a song about the Christian life, a life where I am “a sinner saved, a stumbling saint,” and where God’s Spirit lives in me and transforms me day by day. I love this song.

And I love this album. It’s about the Christian life, my life, and it’s one I’ll be listening to and singing along with for years to come. 4.5/5

citizens-saints-a-mirror-dimlyA Mirror Dimly by Citizens & Saints will be released on Friday, 16th September. You can pre-order it on iTunes here.

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