Songs of longing, joy and peace
Simple messages and catchy tunes make a name for The City Harmonic
If Heart, the second full-length album from Canadian Christian rock band The City Harmonic, has a thesis song, it is “Songs of Longing, Joy and Peace.” The song appears midway through the album, and while it is barely 30 seconds long, lead singer/keyboardist/guitarist Elias Drummer sums up the album’s themes as he sings four lines over gentle piano chords:
“Singin’ songs of longing / Singin’ songs of joy and peace / Songs to give You glory / To God be the glory.”
Drummer and his bandmates—Eric Fusilier (bass), Aaron Powell (guitar) and Josh Vanderlaan (drums)—return again and again to those themes throughout the 14 songs on Heart, which Integrity Media released at the beginning of last September.
Since forming in 2009 after getting to know each other while playing in the same worship band in Hamilton, Ontario, members of The City Harmonic have made a name for themselves with their soaring, worship-driven rock music.
Musically, the band’s sound is reminiscent of British acts like Coldplay, Keane and, to a lesser extent, Muse. The songs on Heart are primarily driven by piano and keyboards, typically starting off quietly and then building into anthemic choruses.
“Here and There” reassures listeners of God’s presence; “Praise the Lord” is a reminder to praise God in both good times and bad; “Take Heart” encourages listeners to persevere during trying times; “Alive, Alive” acknowledges and thanks God for sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross for humanity’s sins; and “A City on the Hill” features verses inspired by the Sermon on the Mount and a chorus that talks about Christians coming together to be a light in the world.
Three songs on the album deviate from the band’s keyboard-driven formula: On “Love, Heal Me,” “Long Walk Home” and “Brand New,” acoustic guitars take centre stage to create a rootsy, folk sound that is a welcome change.
I say “welcome change” because while members of The City Harmonic are gifted at crafting catchy, worship music-inspired pop rock songs, the lack of variation begins to get tedious after a while. The acoustic vibe of the aforementioned three songs show the band’s range and save the album from becoming uninteresting.
“You are God / You heal all things / Your name is Love / So Love heal me” are the words sung in “Love, Heal Me,” a sparsely-arranged folk song featuring little more than an acoustic guitar, a bass drum, a tambourine and vocals. It’s a great song made all the more poignant by the fact that bassist Eric Fusilier nearly died of leukemia prior to the making of the album.
Heart has performed well on the sales charts, earned many strong reviews and was recognized in March with a Juno Award nomination. Listening to the album, it’s not hard to see why the band is successful—they write enticing, anthemic songs that are catchy and convey simple messages about longing, joy and peace.
At the same time, I wonder what the band would sound like if it wrote more songs like “Love, Heal Me,” “Long Walk Home” and “Brand New.”
The City Harmonic are a good band, and definitely worth checking out, but I’m not sure I’ll be listening to Heart from front to back a lot in the coming months. Listening to 14 songs in a row from The City Harmonic is a bit much.
However, I’m confident I’ll be returning to my three or four songs favourite songs from the disc, and I’m interested to see where the band goes from here.
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