CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe

written by: September 19, 2013
Album-art-for-The-Bones-of-What-You-Believe-by-CHVRCHES Release Date: September 24, 2013


There have been few groups to come blazing out of the gate the like Glaswegian trio CHVRCHES, with the confidence of roaring synthesizers and a prowess for pop that would make the both the Billboard charts and Pitchfork’s lists swoon.

A string of critically acclaimed singles and releases, including arguably the second best Prince cover ever (sorry, Sinéad wins that one hands down) and some much talked about performances have propelled the group into the lauded hotlist, and with good reason.

The palpable musical dynamism of Iain Cook and Martin Doherty; the delicate and approachable, yet concrete and singular, vocals of Lauren Mayberry; and the inescapable aura of groovy melancholia that surrounds CHVRCHES have made its debut, The Bones of What You Believe, one of the most anticipated releases of the year.

Saying the album lives up to the hype is an understatement. It’s a collection of smart and elemental synth-pop that takes decades of like-minded sounds and ideas and refreshingly translates them for the modern era.

While members of the congregation will be familiar with a third of the album from the various singles and the Recover EP released over the last year or so, The Bones of What You Believe is a well-crafted and complete work that validates preliminary praise with a collection that oozes personality and charisma.

Previously released gems like “The Mother We Share” and “Recover” do not overwhelm or rust the new release; rather, they frame a series of diverse forays into melodic and sonic experimentation.

The Bones of What You Believe shows that Mayberry, Cook, and Doherty are aware of the rich history and the current state of dark soundscapes and synth-pop. “Science Visions” jumps through a jarring, pulsating groove reminiscent of Depeche Mode’s moodier releases. “You Caught the Light” is beautiful in its sprawling expanses of sound and shades of gloomy hope; it is the sequel to “Plainsong” that Robert Smith never wrote.

Simultaneously and somewhat unexpectedly, tracks like “Night Sky” and “Tether” culminate in flirtations with giant hooks that toe the line between indie-pop and festival ground flavored EDM that work refreshingly well within in the context of the album.

A good portion of the credit for The Bones of What You Believe’s successes is lead singer Mayberry’s smooth and delicate, yet definive and unyielding voice. You find yourself rooting for the heroine in revenge anthems like “We Sink” and “Gun” while encompassed in groove. You buy the emotional vulnerability of “Tether” and “Lungs” in a heartbeat.

In that vein, Mayberry’s cession of the mic to her bandmates adds another layer of dynamism and variation. “Under the Tide” and “You Caught the Light” both see Mayberry taking backseat, and both are as powerful as any of the tracks on The Bones of What You Believe, pushing the limits of this group of seasoned musicians.

The new new wave, or the new dark wave, or whatever music critics are going to call the young genre in ten years, started to blossom with the new decade and has bloomed through a string of powerful releases in the modern musical environment.

There is plenty of room in this world for all the dark, synth-pop powerhouses of today—M83, the xx, Grimes, and the like—and CHVRCHES’ brief existence is no fleeting one, as the group takes its rightful place alongside its contemporaries. Presented here is a strong debut that is singular in its level of expertise and confidence with itself.

The Bones of What You Believe is vulnerable in all the right places, yet struts about where it should—a debut that should garner the respect of the cultural zeitgeist.

There is a moment about 45 seconds into CHVRCHES’ spring single “Gun” where a sixteenth note pulse of driving synth comes galloping in, and the culmination of years of electronic and indie-pop all coalesce and make perfect sense.

It’s no question that the group is well versed in its musicality, yet what makes this album so impressive is CHVRCHES’ simple solution to a complex problem: how to make approachable, yet conscious, synth-pop without relegating to a sonic extreme in the modern era. The album marries moments of dance floor genius and textural sonic conduction into one cohesive unit, where CHVRCHES emphatically laces songs of revenge, loss, longing, and love. With no missteps in their brief but bright history, the Glasgow trio is poised to hit the stratosphere.

CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe tracklist:

  1. “The Mother We Share”
  2. “We Sink”
  3. “Gun”
  4. “Tether”
  5. “Lies”
  6. “Under The Tide”
  7. “Recover”
  8. “Night Sky”
  9. “Science Visions”
  10. “Lungs”
  11. “By The Throat”
  12. “You Caught The Light”