Citizens & Saints

Preacher Poets

I have a confession to make: I avoid Christian music. Without sounding too snobbish, I have become increasingly disappointed by the Christian music scene. I turn on radio and cringe when I hear the latest Christian pop song for several reasons. Chiefly, the music, that is the arrangement, the instruments, the musicianship, is so lackluster. It just doesn’t cut it for me and it hurts when I think of how devoid our Christian arts are of creativity. When I sing a song about Jesus I shouldn’t be tempted to yawn, I should be engaged at an intellectual and emotional level…driven by the music. Christian music all sounds the same; like a monotonous drudgery of insincere melodies and formulaic arrangements…that sounded very snobbish. Sorry not sorry.

Compounding my disillusionment is the shallow standard for lyrics in Christian music. I feel like Nacho Libre, “Those eggs were a lie Stephen. The gave me no mystic powers…they gave me no nutrients!”  Why can’t our songs be theologically nutritious and refreshing, “like a salad or something”? I’m so fed up with spiritual platitudes and clichés that it has left me anemic and numb to Christian music.

Enter Citizens and Saints, my new favorite band. Hailing (more like raining) from Seattle, WA from a congregational worship background C&S won me over with their energetic tones and glorious message of Jesus Christ. Somewhere between OK Go and Delirious?, Citizens and Saints shows musicianship and creativity that speaks to their desire to make God-extolling music rather than to become famous or acquiesce to Christian soccer-mom’s taste in “safe of the whole family” music. I was pleasantly surprised to genuinely enjoy all three of their albums, each one having their own flavor but made with the same ingredients in retaining the band’s overall sound. There wasn’t a single song I was tempted to skip (with the exception of their Christmas single…but that’s a personal problem). I can’t tell you how great it feels to jam out to Christian music again! I am so appreciative of how seriously these guys take music; it is a ministry all of it’s own.

Where Citizens and Saints really shine is in their lyrics; it truly is doxology. Each one of their albums is like listening to a collection of sermons. I found some songs convicting, others inspiring, and still others humbling. The lyrics are never written in a way that are only understandable to the artists, nor is the content oversimplified but instead is delivered in a way that is relatable and spiritually beneficial. Even songs that I wasn’t particularly in love with the sound, became favorites because of the theological themes. The band leans heavily on the Scriptures, in fact, every song I have listened to is either entirely based on a passage or references verses throughout.

Personally, music can speak to me in ways that nothing else does; music seems to have this mystical ability to open up our hearts. One of the aspects I appreciate most about C&S is that I have been able to recommend songs to students who are dealing with depression (Kids, My Joy is Complete) or let’s say unbelief (Doubting Doubts) or maybe they are struggling with a sin that doesn’t seem to go away (Day by Day).

Listening to their songs is like taking a musical vitamin, it’s actually really good for your spiritual well-being. And that’s something we could all use more of.