It’s here. It’s finally here! After months of buzz generated by songs posted online, stellar live shows at SXSW, and tons and tons of blog posts, (including one of my own) the synthpop trio Chvrches finally released their debut full-length album. The hype surrounding this band reached such a mass that I don’t think any album could completely live up to expectations, but The Bones Of What You Believe certainly comes close. In twelve tracks Chvrches establishes their brand of bouncy, catchy New Order-influenced synthesizer pop.
In my last attempt to take people to chvrch, I outlined the band’s career up to that point, reviewing all of the music Chvrches had put up, which was about seven tracks at the time. As it turns out, four of those seven made it to the album, and for good reason too, they’re all really, really great. “The Mother We Share,” “Gun,” “Recover,” my favorites of their early group of songs, all made it onto the album, as did “Lies,” which has definitely grown on me since June. After several listens it becomes apparent that these four are the standouts on the album, maybe not so much “Gun,” but definitely the other three.
The placement of the songs on The Bones of What You Believe is very deliberate and affects album’s flow. The album is broken up into sides, (or halves, for those of you that have never seen or heard of a vinyl record before… get off my lawn) each one opening with big singles, “The Mother We Share” and “Recover,” respectively, and ending with a mellow tune sung by Martin Doherty. I wasn’t a big fan of Doherty’s featured song “ZVVL” from their EP because his singing was rather bland, and so was the music behind him. While Doherty’s singing is still bland and only marginally more interesting on this record, the production behind him is magnificent, especially on the album’s closer “You Caught the Light,” which almost sounds like it could’ve come off Washed Out’s latest album.
Besides Doherty’s attempts to darken the mood, Chvrches throws in a couple other change-of-pace songs. Most of “Tether” is pretty mellow; prominently featuring some reverb-y guitars in the only time I can recall those showing up on the album. About halfway through, the song explodes into something closer to Chvrches’ more traditional style of soaring synthpop. “Silence/Visions,” is another dark spot on the album. It’s as upbeat as most of the band’s other songs, but way the synthesizer oscillates gives the song a more urgent and ominous feel. Singer Lauren Mayberry’s voice loses a bit of its childlike quality on this song and she sings with more adult authority. There is some dissonant chanting during the refrain that comes off a little clumsy and makes the song weirder that it needs to be, but then again, maybe that’s its charm.
While reviewing this album, I could nitpick at a bunch of other little issues I had with the songs or the album, I can sit here and get really defensive about the album when I hear critiques that say it really didn’t live up to the hype, or I can shut up and face facts. The fact is that I enjoy this album very much and will be listening to it on heavy rotation. It did everything I wanted it to do, which was, to give me more songs like the ones I’ve already heard, without giving me the same song and more importantly, keep me tapping my feet. Even when they took risks and made songs outside their formula, they still managed to keep it catchy. If Chvrches can continue to deliver the goods like they do on The Bones of What You Believe, then they are in great shape for future success. And that speaks louder than anything I could ever say.