Citizen Break Down Their Experimental New LP “Life In Your Glass World” Track by Track
The Toledo punks’ fourth album is another marker of growth, and it’s available today via Run for Cover Records.
Drums unexpectedly took the spotlight on the fourth record, Life in Your Glass World, from the Toledo trio Citizen. The uptempo percussion is central to the fury that’s embedded in the album’s eleven tracks. “There’s a lot of anger in these songs, and we wanted the music to communicate that,” guitarist Nick Hamm said. “I think a lot of people expect bands to slow down or chill out when they get to where we are, but we consciously didn’t want to do that.”
The reference to the hometown Toledo—also known as the Glass City because of the industrial boom in the late 19th century—isn’t only in the album’s name, but in the process of recording. After their third album As You Please, vocalist Mat Kerekes returned to Toledo and built a garage studio. “This is the first self-sufficient Citizen record. There was no pressure at all, and moving at our own pace allowed the songs to be a little more fleshed out,” Hamm said. Citizen hammer our their personal demons with a revitalized sense of determination
Although guitar distortion might seem like a natural choice to showcase emotional grit, Citizen’s choice to experiment with rhythm allows for the band to surf roaring waves of anxiety, negativity, loss, and self-erasure with captivating stamina. Take the opener “Death Dance Approximately,” which is an ominous power-punk single buttressed by power-drill drums and zapping guitars. “I beat myself down until I cave in / I will pry and I will claw just to be heard,” sings Kerekes with aggravated resolve. Or, album highlight “Glass World,” where an acoustic guitar sets a tentative, almost passive aggressive tone. It’s another case of how Citizen have found new ways to hear old sounds; on their past albums, guitars guided the melody and the drums buffed the songs out, but the drums are clearer and steady like an exoskeleton when at times the strings fade into the background.
You can stream the record—officially out today—below, and read on for more insight from the band into each track.
1. “Death Dance Approximately”
We had the music for the intro part demoed for maybe a week before we tackled the rest of the song. I just kept listening to that first part on repeat while doing anything. The song is really long and really big-sounding. When it was finally finished, we all knew that it was the album opener, even though we hadn’t finished writing all of the songs.
2. “I Want to Kill You”
Nick and I had talked about wanting to do a “boots and cats” beat for a while. I was at the gym running on the treadmill when the chorus melody popped into my head. Right when I got home I did a really rough version of the song and shot it to everyone, and they loved it. It’s essentially about the pressure to succeed and people expecting a lot out of you.
3. “Blue Sunday”
Nick and I were texting one night about how it would be cool to do a mid-tempo song, but one that doesn’t necessarily sound like something we do. Citizen has always been a pretty mid-tempo band, so we are pretty familiar with it. I demoed out only the verses with just bass, drums, and vocals. Everyone liked the vibe of it, and we all got together and it took a life of its own. It was really cool to experiment and try a lot of things we normally wouldn’t do. It really set the tone for a lot of decisions made while mixing the record. The lyrical content is based on me being a homebody and how it makes me happy, but being alone also creates a slew of internal issues.
4. “Thin Air”
“Thin Air” was the second to last song written for the record. We needed a few more songs, and all of us kind of hit a mental block due to life being a little crazy around that time. I kept trying to write and nothing was working. I then had a little moment where I realized I was just trying too hard. Most of the songs on this record were written with drums first, which was cool because that’s out of the norm for us. For “Thin Air,” I picked up the guitar and just started singing and playing like I used to, and it all came together pretty fast.
5. “Call Your Bluff”
I wrote this song about a friend of mine who disappeared one night after some sad life events. It’s essentially saying I’m here for you and you’re not alone. We really stripped back the rhythm section on some tracks to make it feel more like a drum machine rather than “rock” drum lines, and I think this song is very evident of that.
I remember demoing this and thinking nobody was going to like it because I was just yelling the whole time. Luckily everyone seemed really into it. The mix of it came out really in-your-face and ass-kicking, which rocks. Eric plucked, like, three notes on the violin for this track, so we are pretty much classically trained musicians. The song is about violently reclaiming control.
7. “Fight Beat”
This song is cool. Nick gave me the blueprints for it. He told me exactly what kind of song he wanted to write and I materialized it. After I got the basis of the song down, everyone put their mark on it and made it what it is. What’s cool about Citizen is we can do anything we want. This song is going to come out of left field for a lot of people, but at the end of the day, it’s us.
8. “Black and Red”
This was the final song written for the album. The record was already done and ready to be mixed when Nick sent me the guitar line. I wrote some lyrics over it, then we all got together and made it a song. The lyrics are self-explanatory.
9. “Glass World”
The lyrics to this song are about our guitarist Nick and some troubles he was going through. I was actually pretty confident that he wouldn’t like the song when he heard the demo, but he was into it and even suggested naming the record after the chorus lyrics. I really like how the track brightens up for the chorus, it feels like a breath of fresh air.
10. “Winter Buds”
This was the first song written for the record. At the time, I was going through this weird personal thing where I didn’t want to yell in music anymore. We just finished a really hefty touring cycle and I was really worn out and over it. That obviously changed quickly since “I Want to Kill You” was the next song written. This song feels really good to me, and I think the drum beat is really fun. The lyrics are about asking a younger version of myself if he’s proud of who I am today.
11. “Edge of the World”
Kind of like how we immediately knew “Death Dance” was the opener, we knew this was the closer right when we finished it. Nick wrote the drum line, which I think is a first for him. There were initially no words over the last big music part. I exported the song after we finished recording the final version and was listening to it while working out. I started singing words over the instrumental ending and it felt really good. I went right back out to the studio and laid it down, and I think it really closed out the record perfectly—lyrically and musically.