Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe (2013)

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Glasgow’s Chvrches (pronounced as “churches” for those scoring at home) draws from a deep well of accessible pop cool on their debut The Bones of What You Believe. This 2013 release is seemingly the latest in a long line of defined, refined music from this cycle, with the likes of Haim and even Lorde turning to synthesizers and other electronically based accoutrements to make beautiful noise.

What makes Chvrches compelling is their emotion core and how their release still manages to sound every bit as clean and clear-cut as it must. Much in the same way Depeche Mode succeeds by presenting often unadorned emotional pools in the midst of glassy, nearly icy pop, this trio points their danceable brand forward and excels when wielding their humanity in the midst of such sonic perfection.

Featuring Lauren Mayberry (vocals, synthesizers), Iain Cook (synthesizers, guitar, bass, vocals) and Martin Doherty (synthesizers, vocals, samples), Chvrches’ muscle comes with the combined force of the triumvirate. While it’s easy to point daggers at Mayberry for giving the band a voice (and she certainly has), a deeper listen reveals how each member contributes to the balance of sound.
Naturally, it’s tempting to look at electronic music and suggest that just about anyone could replace Keyboardist A and all would be well. Who would notice? After all, this stuff isn’t really “music” is it?

But in devouring the gloriously melodic and incredibly poignant range of The Bones of What You Believe, only the most insincere would suggest that what happens over the course of these dozen tracks is anything less than flesh-and-bone art.

Consider the heartrending emotion of “The Mother We Share,” for one. Here the music bends around a drip-drop of samples and synthesizer pulses, with Mayberry reaching a nearly divine apex when the chorus floats into place. Or there’s the celestial anguish found on “Tether,” where the singer admits to vulnerability before a laser-guided chorus of synthesizers wash over her and nearly drown her out. If this isn’t the act of getting lost in a grander scheme, nothing is. Yet this giant-sized drive doesn’t destroy Chvrches; it readies them for the arena.

The Bones of What You Believe also features Doherty on vocal duties, with “Under the Tide” providing a rolling contrast to the previous track (“Lies”).

With their lush, ambitious debut, Chvrches demonstrates that crafting flesh-and-bone art is about pushing blood through the veins and producing ambitious, spirit-soaring tunes. These songs are straightforward confessions and full-blooded anthems all at once, illustrating that real music can be found wherever real hearts sing.

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Jordan Richardson

Jordan Richardson is a Canadian freelance writer and ne'er-do-well. He also contributes to his own Canadian Cinephile and Canadian Audiophile websites. Contact Something Else! Reviews at [email protected]
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