Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Scottish electro poppers Chvrches present exuberant synth fantasy

Glasgow electronic pop trio Chvrches have been steadily gaining attention over the past year thanks to a slew of catchy singles and their Recover EP earlier this March, and the anticipation has reached a fever pitch thanks to the release of their debut album, The Bones of What You Believe. They've captured hearts and minds so far by presenting exuberant and addicting synth pop, and their full length offers very little deviations from the sound hinted at by their early singles.

They aren't dark and suffocating like Crystal Castles; they make no effort to be highly experimental like The Knife, and they certainly aren't downright fucking crazy like Grimes. They utilize an extreme back to basics approach, presenting their sound as simply and as straightforward as possible. For this reason, Chvrches will likely come across as very basic and elementary to anyone who's been listening to this style of music for awhile. However, the thrust of their success so far has not been so much due to ideology as it has been to the execution itself.

This album is filled with very cute, happy and uplifting music carried by the always spirited and adorable voice of Lauren Mayberry. With her high pitched, sweet and sugary voice, she's naturally going to draw comparisons to Megan James of Purity Ring. Yet Chrvches sound is much simpler, as they make an effort to put everything right on the surface. In many ways, it sounds like an album geared toward teenagers or high school age kids with its twinkling rave backgrounds and its themes focusing on interpersonal relationships.

Yet the passion and the level of earnestness with which they present the material make it accessible to a wide variety of age ranges.Some lyrics have a definite bite to them. On "Gun," Mayberry declares herself to be a gun, and it's you she'll be coming for. Some low pitched gurgling electronica running under the verses adds to the song's confrontational style, while still keeping with the album's by maintaining a general upbeat nature.

"Tether," meanwhile, is a slow gushing ballad that sounds like a breakup anthem, complete with some spacey guitar strums that washes over the listener like waves in the sea.  Most songs begin simply enough, and then add layer upon layer, building as it goes until it ends with a nice finale. It's predicable song structuring, but still remains effective. Although the sound is heavily keyboard based, every now and then you can hear a little bit of guitar which brings in some very minor new wave/post punk influence. "Night Sky" is bolstered by an 80s inspired surf guitar sound, while "Lies" sounds something like U2 doing New Wave.

To be sure, this is not a particularly deep record, nor does it bring much new to the table. As Iain Cook said to Pitchfork's Rob Cohen, the band aims for their melody to be "up front and immediate." This draws the listener in easily on the first few playthroughs, but leaves little to discover on repeat listens. Therefore, The Bones of What You Believe is best consumed by those in need of a soundtrack for a party or club type setting, or just anyone who wants to have a good time and not take their music too seriously.

Score: 74/100

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