Citizens Does Christmas with "Repeat The Sounding Joy"

When it comes to indie/alternative worship music, Mars Hill Music has brought us some phenomenal acts. From Ghost Ship, Dustin Kensrue, and The Modern Post; Mars Hill has been presenting us with unique and innovative worship. Their most prominent act however, has probably been Citizens, who have gifted us with a new Christmas EP, Repeat the Sounding Joy. When you think of worship bands putting out Christmas music, a band like Citizens doesn’t necessarily come to mind. You would expect a band like Hillsong or Third Day to put out some Christmas songs, but not an indie band such as Citizens. Regardless of the many preconceptions, this may in fact be one of the best Christmas collections of 2013.

Kicking off the EP is Citizens cover of “Joy to the World” which is where we get the title of the EP (Repeat the Sounding Joy). There’s always a fine line that a band rides when covering a Christmas song, between making it their own and keeping the song’s traditional sound. Citizens rides that line gracefully and keeps the verses quite similar to what you’re used to, but shaking things up with the chorus. The band constantly repeats the lines “Glory to God in the highest” over the length of the track, somehow making such a worshipful Christmas tune even more worshipful. “Hark! The Heralds Angels Sing” comes next and takes a different spin. The track leads off with horns that fade away for guitar and keys to lead the verse before bring the horns back again. Citizens finds a way to not only restructure the sound of “Hark!”, but also their own sound. The upbeat horns are a different sound than what you’d expect from Citizens, but one that they pull off quite well.

Unfortunately, Citizens only presents us with one original Christmas song on this EP, “Come and Stand Amazed”. With all of the restructuring they’ve done to classic Christmas hymns, this may be the most hymn-like song on the album (while still retaining their traditional indie sound). With lines such as, “See how human kind receives Him, see Him wrapped in swaddling bands. Who as Lord of all creation, rules the world by His command”, the imagery of Christmas is presented with a clear worshipful heart. Moving on is another Christmas hymn classic, “O Come O Come Emmanuel”. This is a great reimagining of the original with great synth/keys sounds to give it an extremely catchy sound. Closing out the EP is their cover of “Silent Night”. It’s stripped down and bare; simple acoustic guitar and quiet drums lead the song until a chorus joins in to truly bring the song to its full potential. The cover is incredibly worshipful and leaves the listener on just the right note to finish the EP.

A Christmas EP is one of the last things I’d expect from Citizens, but they’ve managed to surprise me. There are only two real downsides to this EP. The first being that it’s only an EP. The sound is so brilliantly put together it leaves you begging for more by the time it’s over. The only other complaint I have is that there is only one original track from the band. While “Come and Stand Amazed” is a fantastic tune, I would have loved to hear what Citizens attempt would have been at an original upbeat Christmas tune. Nevertheless, the small taste of Christmas we get from Citizens is enough to last the season and leaves me excited for new music from the band in the future.