Album Review for a Tuesday in Late February | 10 Years of Youth by Citizen


Nick Sanchez, Host of Thee Hourz O' Power

Today is a Tuesday and all the flowers are dead. The sun is shining abnormally bright for late February, seemingly mocking the children of Michigan State University who yearn for the healing warmth of a spring day. Today’s sunshine brings out the hope those children have for the end of academic stressors, for the end of term, for better days. 

But we’re young: These are supposed to be the better days. These are supposed to be the days where, despite any alleged good sense we might have, we’re supposed to be wearing shorts to spite the cold sun. Then why aren’t they? Why don’t these feel like those days? Why do those days feel far away and behind us? Because today is a Tuesday and all the flowers are dead.

I’ve found myself endlessly fascinated by Citizen’s decision to title this album Youth. Here is a collection of songs so heartbroken, lonely and frustrated that they should reek of old age and regret. Instead, the pained mutterings of despair on Youth betray the very essence of what it feels like to be young.

To be young is to have the days move by too fast, to only be able to focus on your mistakes and to feel like everything and everyone is so very far away. Youth is to feel everything deeply, including — maybe even especially — the worst of it. For example, maybe it’s a sunny, almost-spring day, but all you can focus on is that it’s cold, a Tuesday and that all the flowers are dead. 

The cold rays of a warm sun are reminiscent of the propellant first 10 seconds of “Roam The Room,” which dupe the listener with expectations of upbeat jams, but that momentum is soon shed in favor of a half-time groove that lulls us into the song, and thus, the album. When the up-tempo beat returns for the chorus, we welcome its familiarity but are somewhat perplexed. The jockeying between speeds on the opening track establishes a tension that will last for the rest of the album, like the tension between sun and cold.

On a project overflowing with chilly slow jams, we eagerly anticipate our next sunny acceleration, which doesn’t come until “Drawn Out,” the closing track. Thanks to “Roam The Room,” we end up expecting a certain velocity that we don’t receive until the end, which keeps us wanting just a little bit more, just as moody twenty-somethings wish for just a little more heat on brightly frigid days.

At the exact midpoint of the album, the gentle strums of “The Night I Drove Alone” greet tired ears that are already emotionally exhausted from the first five tracks. Unfortunately, the track offers no respite for the weary, containing within its gently meandering tones one of the most heartbreaking lyrics ever penned:

And you talk like someone else.

This encapsulates the entire album; these six words are Youth. This line is the heartbreak of losing a young lover to the sea of 7 billion; it is coming home to greet childhood friends who you no longer recognize; it is looking in the mirror and realizing you’re growing up. This line contains all of the infinite tragedies that come with youth: every gain and loss, along with every growth and regression. This line conjures a sadness in me that nothing else does. There is such high despair in the delivery — such defeat — that you can’t help but let it hold your hand as you relive the alienation of realizing you no longer know someone you love.

One of the many — and most important — intangible qualities of Youth is a feeling of drifting. Forces beyond your control lightly bat you to and fro, leaving you to float down hallways where every door is a memory. Some doors are locked, some slightly ajar and some wide open, beckoning you to come back to when things were simpler. But when rose-colored glasses are dropped, simple is the furthest word from your mind.

It’s so easy to remember your youth as a peaceful and pleasant affair, but that’s not what it felt like in the moment. With every misstep your world was at risk of crumbling down around you. Every day was a high-wire act with no safety harness. And, despite the sun, it was always just a little too cold. 

Today is a Tuesday and all the flowers are dead.

An ode to what we lost before we even knew we had it, 10 years later, Citizen’s Youth stands as one of the most heartbreakingly sincere and honest contributions to music this century. 

Do you think that’s too high of praise? Grow up.