I like to think of myself as a fan of many different genres of music. I like to think that I have an eclectic taste that casts a broad net on the music world. I like to think that, but in reality, I mostly just listen to pop-punk and 2 Chainz, but I’m slowly working on changing that. Take Chvrches for example. The whole hipster indie synthpop thing is something I never really latched on to. Maybe I just don’t get it, or maybe I just wasn’t listening to the right stuff, but for whatever reason, that style has never clicked with me. In all honestly, I probably wouldn’t have ever actually given Chvrches a chance. But after hearing “Recover” at work a while back (shout out to Vans for having a pretty sweet playlist, minus the Guns N’ Roses. Every time I hear the beginning to “Paradise City” I consider quitting on the spot. But I digress.), I was hooked. Something about the band and that song in particular really intrigued me. And with their debut album The Bones of What You Believe, Chvrches have won me over, along with solidifying their spot among the heavyweights of the genre.
Right off the bat, Lauren Mayberry’s extraordinary vocals grab the listener by the throat and never let go. The opening one-two punch of “The Mother We Share” and “We Sink” has Mayberry’s astonishing voice delivering incredibly catchy hooks with an effortless ease. The latter in particular, with its refrain of “I’ll be a thorn in your side/Till you die/I’ll be a thorn in your side/For always” is pop perfection, melding a contagious hook with layer upon layer of shining synths while always maintaining a certain feeling of darkness to it. “Tether” flips the script and features the band taking their foot off the gas, momentarily at least, in its slow burning nature. Mayberry’s vocals are allowed to take center stage, guiding the listener through a dense fog of guitars and synth, before erupting in the last minute into a bouncing pop number. The band’s versatility is one of the biggest weapons they have.
One of the record’s strengths is the band’s ability to construct the most sugary pop music without coming across as cheesy or over the top. The beats seamlessly create a moody atmospheric vibe while always retaining an infectious dancey-ness to them. Chvrches blend that line extremely well, never treading too far into either side, but straddling both just enough to keep it interesting. The record’s darker, more dramatic moments avoid the pitfall of becoming too melodramatic, while the lighter, upbeat tracks are grounded by the lingering darkness that encapsulates the record as a whole.
“Recover”, the one track retained here from Chvrches’ previous EP, is the highlight of the album, however. It heavily uses hand claps and snare hits that wouldn’t be out of place on a trap beat, while its enormous chorus is absolutely soaring and is primed to become an anthem when the band inevitably blows up. The latter half of the record sees Chvrches expanding their sound a bit, from the lingering menace of “Science/Visions” to the hazy dreaminess of “Lungs”, before coming to a haunting end with closer “You Caught the Light”. The album’s final track is a chilling one, utilizing band members Iain Cook and Martin Doherty’s vocals to mix things up, and in the process it closes out the record in an eerily beautiful manner.
The Bones of What You Believe is as strong of a record as anything else released this year, regardless of genre. It takes synthpop beyond its boundaries and doesn’t fall into the traps that subdue many of their counterparts. With their fusion of countless attributes and characteristics, Chvrches have shown that they are a force to be reckoned with.