The anthem is a tricky beast to master. Some do it right, others end up sounding redundant or uninspired. They’re huge when it comes to live shows, but have a tendency to falter when recorded for an album. Canadian worship act, The City Harmonic, have over the past two records (including an introduction E.P.), delicately balanced the art of creating an anthem that is both rousing and creative. Their debut, I Have a Dream (It Feels Like Home), was a huge breath of fresh air for me, and their sophomore, Heart, was even better, adding even more artistic flavor. The group’s third outing, We Are, follows along the same path their debut did: big anthems, with a light artistic touch.
The album begins with the title track, “We Are One.” It’s the perfect opener, with a gliding piano and an addicting chorus that proclaims, We are one, we are all for one, all for Jesus, all for the glory of the one true God! Maranatha comes up next, and is easily the best anthem on the record. It’s loud, worshipful, and exciting; all a good anthem should be.
Track three is where the album begins to lose its footing. “Into Your Arms” is full of emotion, but it nears the point of uninteresting musically. “Shout,” “Let There Be Light,” and “All of This and More,” are strong anthems in their own right, but aren’t that memorable when taken with the entirety of the record. One could easily argue these songs are some of the band’s best work, but most of the first half of the record feels a little too safe to me to truly stand out, and so tends to blend together with not a lot setting it apart.
Thankfully, the second half diverts from the first half almost completely. “O What Love,” is a beautiful track reflecting on the love of God and His son, Jesus. In this sacrifice displayed, all the beauty of unending love, there’s so much that I could say, and yet these simple words are rising up: Father, oh what love. It climbs to a breathtaking climax, and it makes me wonder how the songs before weren’t this good. “Confession (Agnus Dei)” brings in the pop element once again, but with a less anthemic sound this time round. It’s a major highlight and a heart achingly honest song. “Still and Small,” is yet another gem, baring a raw, acoustic sound similar to “Long Way Home” and, “Brand New” from Heart. It’s a humble cry for the Spirit to be with us and speak softly to us a we journey through our lives. The album then concludes with “One,” bringing forth the idea of unity in the church to a full circle. It’s gentle, inspiring, and like the opener, a great way to close the album.
Overall, I was all at once disappointed and surprised by the City Harmonic’s newest effort. On one hand, some songs are a little too familiar to their past work and fail to really stand out from other artists in the genre, but on the other it’s some of their best work to date. It doesn’t knock Heart off its pedestal as my favourite Harmonic record. but it’s definitely a City Harmonic record through and through, and considering how good they are, that’s quite a good thing indeed.