Citizen – Youth
Record Label: Run For Cover
Release Date: June 11 2013
In every genre, there are “good” bands, and “bad” bands. Don’t let the bad bands cloud your judgement on the entire genre as a whole. It’s easy to disregard a genre based on a handful of “bad” bands, but there are some bands who blow many of the bands in the genre out of the metaphorical water. Enter Michigan five-piece pop-punk band Citizen. This band has been on my radar for awhile, but I had never checked out a full release from them, but now I had my chance with debut record, Youth. I had heard of them when they released EP Young States last year, but for whatever reason, I wasn’t curious enough to really dive into the whole thing. They re-released it with a few bonus tracks, and acoustic tracks (two of which being an acoustic bonus tracks of the bonus tracks), so I might go back to it soon, permitting I enjoyed Youth. If I had to give a short answer, I would say Youth is easily one of the best records I’ve heard all year, and it also is one of the best pop-punk records I’ve heard all year, and possibly of the last few years. That wouldn’t be fun, though, because this review would be cut insanely short. The long version is what the entire review will encompass.
As I said, Youth is one of the best records I’ve heard this year, along with one of the best pop-punk records I’ve heard in the last few years. It’s worth noting that it’s only about half an hour long, which makes it that much more powerful. It’s short, so it takes a few listens to truly grasp the record, because if you’re not paying attention, the record could go by real quick. Granted, no song on the record is under 2 minutes, so the songs aren’t terribly short, but only two songs barely reach four. This band’s brand of pop-punk is raw, emotive, but still melodic and chilled out at certain points. A recent wave of pop-punk bands have found themselves mixed indie-rock to their sound, such as defunct outfit Daytrader (whom released their debut and only record last year), Misser, The American Scene, along with a few others. These bands are great, because they combine two of my favorite genres – indie and pop-punk. They do it in a very interesting way, too; the combine the brashness of pop-punk and its raw aggression with catchy choruses and singalong lyrics that are quite relatable with some melodic and relaxing moments within indie-rock. Citizen is a band that does just that. The songs kind of weave between indie-rock and pop-punk influenced, but the whole record has a nice flow and sense of direction to it. It may only be half an hour, but it’s a record that will make you, the listener, want to listen to it again and again.
As I mentioned in passing earlier, the record has two “sides” to it; there’s the indie side, and there’s the pop-punk side. This record is interesting, because every song has that indie meets pop-punk sound, but each song leans towards one or the other. For instance, opener “Roam the Room” is a rather aggressive track, with vocalist Mat Kerekes shouting, and even screaming slightly. It doesn’t come off as annoying or unnecessary, however. It’s actually really cool, because it’s a nice contrast from his singing during the verses. For being a pop-punk band, they’re very unique, which is something that I don’t describe many pop-punk records as being. It’s hard to stand out in this genre, but Citizen is definitely a band that does it. Third track “The Summer” is the first song I ever heard by this band, and the first song I heard from this record, which made me very curious to give it a listen. This is another track that does combine the melodic with aggression. To be honest, though, the only thing that’s “aggressive” about this record are Kerekes’ vocals. He tends to go from singing to screaming in most of the record, which is really interesting, because he actually makes it work. Of course, there are more melodic tracks, such as fourth track “Sleep.” That track, along with fifth and sixth tracks “How Does It Feel” and “The Night I Drove Alone” slow down the record ever so slightly, but not totally. “How Does It Feel” is the longest track on the record, around four minutes, but it’s also one of the highlights. Sixth track “The Night I Drove Alone” is one of the shorter tracks on the record, at about 2 minutes, but it still hits hard. I love how the first few tracks are very aggressive, and have a rather pop-punk edge to them, while the next three have a very chilled out, indie sound. This is what I meant by this band having a nice sense of direction. “The Night I Drove Alone” eventually does erupt into a faster tempo, but it’s still slowed down a bit.
The rest of the record shares this “formula,” meaning the band still mixes pop-punk and indie, and it’s not a bad thing whatsoever. Most of the songs do sound quite similar, as I mentioned in the beginning of the review, but unlike a lot of records, it works to its advantage. It does so because the record’s only about half an hour, so the record doesn’t drag on whatsoever. Even then, Citizen has a VERY unique sound, one of which that’s not heard too often in pop-punk. They don’t rely on the genre clichés that most bands have, but they do something that’s rather different. Going along with that, they’re also very differently lyrically. While most pop-punk bands sing about girls, their friends, or the town they’re from, Citizen is a bit different. For instance, fourth track “Sleep” has some very dark lyrics, such as “I’m getting sick and tired of this smile that I fake every day / I would love to speak my mind, but I can’t think straight / I would love to feel alive again, but I’m not used to change.” That’s just one example of very hard-hitting lyrics on this record, but if you’re looking for more, just listen to the entire record. That’s just one example that really stuck out to me.
If there is one thing that I would say I don’t like about this record, it’s that it’s too short. Half an hour is a nice length, but for a band like this, I desperately want the record to be longer. It’s absolutely fantastic, and easily one of the best debut records I’ve ever heard, let alone one of the best records I’ve ever heard. While the songs on the record may have a similar sound running throughout, they’re still memorable on their own, which is a really nice thing for a record to accomplish. Every member knows what they’re doing, and all complement each other nicely. Vocalist Mat Kerekes’s voice is also fantastic, yet it doesn’t become the main focus of the record, as most pop-punk records do. Everything about it works, and all in all, this is a record that no pop-punk fan is going to want to overlook.
Great review & these guys put on a sick live show. Can't believe Mat just turned 19 years old, sky is the limit for these guys.
Definitely definitely visit Young States. It's a much more aggressive record, it isn't as mature (naturally) but it's equally as good of a listen.
Thanks! But seriously? He's only 19? I just turned 20 last week, and that honestly blows my mind. For being so young, they have so much talent. It's unbelievable, but I'll have to check out their last EP, because I was curious about it, but never listened to it for whatever reason.