Album review: ‘The Bones of What You Believe’ by Chvrches
Is it possible that, in a year filled with releases from Britney Spears, Katy Perry and (unfortunately) Miley Cyrus, the best pop record released will be courtesy of a little-known trio from Glasgow? Chvrches, pronounced like “churches” (thank goodness), have finally released their debut album, “The Bones of What You Believe,” after dominating the Internet with multiple EPs. And it was worth the wait, too. Lead vocalist Lauren Mayberry, along with the synthesizer and sample mixers Iain Cook and Martin Doherty, have given us an album of surprising depth with seemingly no filler between hit single after single.
It’s hard to choose a best song on the album or even three best songs. Every song is catchier than the next while not sounding too similar to the one that came before it. On “Tether,” the created-from-drops-of-water beat cuts out halfway through to allow Mayberry’s voice to take center stage as she sings hauntingly, “I’m feeling capable of seeing the end/I’m feeing capable of saying it’s over.” Then, her voice fades out as the beats swell into the best synth-breakdown since M83’s “Midnight City.” It’s a song that evokes melancholy alongside euphoria, one that makes it almost impossible to sit still as a wave of sound washes over you.
“Lungs” sees the band experimenting with a more hip-hop-esque sound (you’ll understand it when you hear it) with Mayberry’s vocals layered over a more robotic voice. “Gun” is an instant hit, with a rapid-fire chorus that is at once fragile and threatening. The lyrics say “run” and “hide,” but the music says “dance your heart out.” Other highlights like “Lies” and “Recover” have been released for months but are even more enjoyable when listened to alongside the other songs on the album.
There are only a few stumbles on the album, and they occur when Mayberry cedes the vocal spotlight to Doherty. “You Caught the Light” slows down the pace to something that sounds like it could be used in a John Hughes high school dance scene. It almost works, but it interrupts the tonal flow of the album. Without Mayberry’s distinctive, emotive voice, the songs are forgettable and sound more like every other synth-based band trying to get recognized in today’s vast music landscape. Her ability as a chanteuse is surprisingly central to Chvrches’ success as a band; she is skillful at finding the urgency in every hook, like on lead single “The Mother We Share.” Mayberry transforms every chorus she sings into something you want to shout out while dancing underneath neon lights. “The Bones of What You Believe” is a life-affirming album, one that cries out for it to be blared out of sky-high speakers with your hands raised high, all the while enforcing the notions that music mixed simply of vocals, drum machines and synths is more than capable of standing up against more traditional bands and that pop music can be quality music, too.