Two years after their Everybody Is Going To Heaven album, Ohio band Citizen have brought an evolved sound to the fore with As You Please. The singles of “Jet”, “In The Middle Of It All”, “Fever Days” and “Flowerchild” have been brilliantly enticing and hype-generating invitations to immerse into the upcoming release. The twelve track strong album releases on 6th October, via Run For Cover records.
We dove in track-by-track, honestly having mostly the singles as a guide for as to what to expect, being relatively new to the band, consisting of Mat Kerekes (vocals), Nick Hamm (guitar & vocals), Jake Duhaime (drums), Ryland Oehlers (guitar), and Eric Hamm (bass).
“Jet” is what opens As You Please, laying down an incredibly catchy yet unnerving experience, via distorted riffs and curious melody. The vibe of “Jet” is being stuck in wondering about what they can’t see, to the extreme of paranoia, seeking to understand what’s there that they’re feeling yet can’t quite put their finger on.
“If I’m in vain then you, you must be too“
The shift at the bridge of “Jet” feels like an enlightenment moment, finally seeing things as they are, with the backing of ominous drums. They can see themselves growing out of this situation of paranoia into something else and recovering. “Jet” is what I consider as a perfect song, and it flows from beginning to end, with nothing feeling jarring or out of place while also still being engaging. It gets under your skin, which is fitting for the subtle skin-crawlingness it carries.
By way of flow and songs, Mat Kerekes shares his approach on his website, saying “If it doesn’t flow easy from the get go, then I don’t think it should be used”. I can hear this flow by way of his vocals too, with metaphors and ambiguous lyrics sometimes running together, never seeming to be handed over in blatant chunks with obvious meaning. Citizen listeners have to work for their understanding, and they do.
Second on As You Please is “World” and the seekingness of tone and “hello can you hear me?” vibe of Mat’s voice is divine. The drums perfectly foreshadow a build up, moving into an encouraging and confrontational chorus. The choruses are soundscapes of escapism and goosebumping grandeur, as incredible walls of sound.
I found there to be sonething heart-wrenching about “World”, listening to its beautiful and vulnerable ‘out there’-ness, with its feeling of waiting for a response. The layered vocals and lone drum beat ending are feels-provoking. Citizen can’t seem to make a bad song.
Third on the album is “Ugly Luck” and this song honestly broke me. The drums offer a strong “I’m here to kick ass” vibe at the introduction with Mat’s voice seeming distant, before an entangled beat at the pre-chorus. The chorus is so hope-filled, like a gift of optimism, that it inspired an outpouring of emotion. And then with a breath-taking organ-esque moment of stillness, we are guided back to the seriousness of the verse again.
“I don’t know where you’ve been, or where you are”
In my notes for “Ugly Luck”, I capture the emotional wreck that I became at the hands of this track: “This song is killing me. It feels like homecoming. It’s so heart-swelling. His voice, how does he do this?!”.
Beautiful is a word I used repeatedly in my notes while listening to As You Please, and I apologise for repetition of this word, but am also not sorry at all. Drifting away into its peaceful ending, it is no question as to how I am to describe it: “Ugly Luck” is beautiful.
“Medicine” takes us into isolation and dissonance almost immediately, feeling like a question of identity. There’s strength at the chorus before seeming to drop down into a weird alternate reality. Passionate vocals are sublime on “Medicine”, as is the sense of screaming collision at the bridge. Guitars are a stand-out, as is the aching heaviness of the ending as it trails out.
“Have you waited long enough?”
Onto the next track and the simplicity of the introduction of “I Forgive No One” soon expands into massiveness; distorted, gritty, and creepy in a way, like unseen manipulation. A scream effect at the chorus adds to this vibe, with some weirdness and skin-crawling eeriness as we observe what’s going on around us, being on hyper alert for what’s coming.
“In every fabrication there’s always truth”
The bridge is so beautiful; with the defenses dropped and falling into a quest to connect, human-to-human, with vulnerability, light sound, and layered vocals. Repeated lyrics feel like determination with gentleness and humility to break through. It builds up again and falls back into scream-drenched atmosphere of fire and fury. The ending is left feeling unresolved, perhaps reflecting that we’ve not yet worked out what is going on behind the scenes.
“You Are A Star” is next and inspires goosebumps with its eerie percussion and unnerving vocals. The feeling is that we are waiting for what’s going to happen. What does happen is a solid chorus; a momentary break from goosebumping.
“Don’t let me down”
A slight shift in the vocals foreshadows wildness by way of guitar, with its messiness backed up by the unwavering gentle melody in the background, before the vocals shift up. There’s more and more layers added to the track, becoming overwhelming and staticky, before all that remains is the hum we began with, suspended in time.
There’s nothing I don’t love about “In The Middle Of It All”, which is the following track. Its repeated (‘In the middle of it all’) lyric is both beautiful as well as unnerving in its repetitiveness, and the unassuming melody has something addictive about it to me. “In The Middle Of It All” feels like observing humans as they go through their days; people watching with curiosity, seeing these weird things we do and also seeing (or just seeking) meaning and reason in our weirdness. The chorus feels like a celebration of humanity, before going into further observations and the noticings of what’s going on underneath the surface and what we perhaps don’t allow ourselves to feel.
The bridge feels like unexpected clarity or learning, finally breaking out of the monotonous cycle of repetitiveness and moving into something else that’s not known, but is more genuine. The wildness of guitar and static/cutting-out of the repeated lyric adds to this feeling. I love it all.
“Discrete Routine” begins with a piano introduction and dusky drums, and ‘holy-shit-this-is-beyond-beautiful’ vocals. This steadiness of beat and warm sound feels like admiration and wanting to see inside someone else’s universe, curious to know more about them.
“She’s fooled everyone now, where does she go?”
Escalation via an echoed scream effect moves into a messiness of sound, seeming untethered and raw, yet also very real and satisfying. The harmonies that feel magical, as well as the other worldliness of sound made it very easy to get lost in “Discrete Routine”. Again this track moved me to tears, feeling like a full-bodied sigh. As a final kicker to the feels, there’s something powerful in its simple ending.
Warm guitars invite us into “Flowerchild”, seeming like a confession for us to listen to respectfully. In this ode to his ‘flowerchild’, he shares that he feels so much for her fading existence and has regret now, not knowing where he stands, nor knowing where ‘home’ is. He feels willing to put everything on the line for this love, as she seems to be the missing pieces he’s looking for. He sees her as strong, but vulnerable, and fights within himself, wanting something there which never came to life. It all feels quite sad, but the feeling is that it was beautiful while it lasted.
“It’s such a shame that still no one likes looking up when they are lost, they are lost”
A warm looping melody before dirty bass at the introduction of “Fever Days” leads us into an expression of frustration. He’s wanting more for his aimless and drifting self. Trying to be common sensical, but it doesn’t seem to be working. He seems to be saying he’s not enough to be more than what he currently is. At the beautiful time-suspending bridge, he feels connected on another level beyond humanness alone. But that doesn’t seem to last.
“I can feel you breathing into me
Our existence separates”
We’re at the title track now. The essence of “As You Please” seems to be expressed with deep, core-rattling drum beats, much like a pulse that courses through us. There’s a feeling like an ache with this song, seeming like an experience of surrendering to another.
“Drown in my veins and I am yours forever”
The drums are un-ignorable and feel like an expression of simplicity; a pulsing undercurrent of our similar existence in reality, underneath any other appearance and complexity. Like, ‘we are all real’. Collision via guitars could be seen much like our human ‘collisions’ and moments of connectedness, chaotic but also simple at the core too. Hearing a lone voice and core-shaking beats here on “As You Please” is something intensely wonderful. How did our ears and souls get so lucky to experience this?
“Control” is where As You Please ends; a perfect album closer with its vibe of resolution and feeling like a final statement. A hum with solid beat is the base from where exploring guitar and expressive vocals leave off. To be honest, I found “Control” the hardest track to ‘get’ by way of meaning, so I just let it wash over me, recognising a glimmer of hope, along the lines of “You’re never alone”, yet still wishing I had the lyrics to do this beauty more justice.
“I’m under your control”
In having soaked up each of the twelve tracks, I know without a doubt that those who have loved the Citizen singles so far will also fall deeply in love with this album. With the songs of As You Please, Citizen are questioning what drives each of us to do what we do, wondering what goes on within each of us and what leads to the connections or disconnections we each have.
And now looking at the As You Please cover, with those irregular and imperfect stars, that I’ve seen so many people complain about on social media, I now see in a new light: Each of the stars being imperfect reflections of our uniqueness as humans, while each still being recognised as stars. Of course it could just be someone’s rough-handed creation..
Citizen seem to be overcome with curiosity of the human spirit, seeking to peer in beyond the surface and to look to the vulnerable core. They do this using sound that’s at times speechlessly spacious, and other times overwhelmingly hectic: A very real expression of the spectrum of what it means to be human. Whether explosively massive and shouting “I CAN’T GIVE ANYTHING!” or leaking out an intimate murmur of promise in “Drown in my veins and I am yours forever”, there is undeniable beauty in what has been offered up here, for you and your individual taking and accepting.
Incredibly beautiful from end to end, engaging, interesting and powerful. The album feels like a celebration of the realness of who we truly are.
I wish I had had the lyrics while reviewing this beauty, to perhaps do more justice to the messages being shared.