The fate of a buzz band can be an ugly thing. Since the Internet began playing a bigger role in the promotional side of music, we’ve watched as countless groups and solo acts get thrust into the spotlight of the blogosphere only to be cut down. Few acts have transcended this seemingly inevitable endgame, partially because so many of these buzz acts were created to capitalize on the publicity of others. Remember the chillwave explosion? How about all the dance-pop groups of the mid-to-late 2000s? And then the Hives, the Vines, etc…? Yeah, it’s been difficult to watch, to put it lightly. But every so often, an act comes along that appears to have struck the right balance between the buzz and realistic side of being part of the game these days. That’s where Glaswegian trio CHVRCHES come in.
We recognized them earlier this year in our roundup of musical faces to watch for in 2013. We noted that they strike a balance between the more challenging synth-heavy work of the Knife, epic-level tunes of M83, and the pop-leaning efforts of Robyn. That combination of sounds is no more apparent than on the band’s full-length debut, the newly released The Bones of What You Believe. But don’t get it twisted‚ these three are doing much more than simply building on the backs of those before them.
Led by frontwoman Lauren Mayberry, CHVRCHES is rounded out by multi-instrumentalists Iain Cook and Martin Doherty. The two hold it down on the synthesizers and vocals (on some tracks), Cook handles guitar and bass, and Doherty works the samplers. More important than that is the fact Cook and Doherty have known each other since going to college together. Judging by the fact Cook is 39, that’s quite a long time. That shared history allows for them to create music well beyond what you’d expect from a freshman outing. These aren’t some rookies who just got together this year in someone’s basement or dorm room. They’re tried and true musicians‚ Cook played live with the Twilight Sad and Doherty was in Aereogramme and The Unwinding Hours‚ who know just what they’re doing. Their musicianship is tight, the lyrics are easily relatable but not too superficial, and the
songwriting is poignant.
The Bones of What You Believe is a fully realized, immersive listen with a heart and a pulse. ‘We Sink’ is an early standout with its incredibly endearing chorus, ‘Lies‘ and ‘Gun‘ are up there with some of the finest tracks of the year, and the playful vocal cues of ‘By The Throat’ are simply fantastic. These tracks, and the others on the album, are also wonderfully sequenced and if you’re looking for cohesion on a record, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better defined sound than this. Also, to close out the piece with the slow-burning ‘You Caught the Light’ was perfection, and it feels like a teaser for what could be a great final track during one of their live shows.
While there are plenty of addictive beats and grooves on here, the album isn’t just made for ’80s-themed dance parties. The 12 tracks can set the tone for plenty of other activities, including pre-game sessions for all the weekend warriors out there. I was actually able to make a few bucks while giving The Bones of What You Believe repeated listens to further flesh out this review. And why did the album work so well in this context? Because the songwriting and musicianship are simply that sharp while also being compelling enough to suit almost any setting. And those qualities are what make CHVRCHES’ debut so enjoyable and lasting. These three aren’t going anywhere.