Album: Chvrches – “The bones of what you believe” (2013)

I’m not a trendy person. Though I suppose everyone wants to be, I was never so determined to be trendy that it diverted my attention from what I liked at the time. I mean I’m writing a blog with a significant chunk devoted to Eurovision for crying out loud. But I’ve always liked electronic music to a degree, futuristic synths have been something I’ve loved since I was a kid back in the 80s/90s with the sort of new agey atmospheric pieces and space-age bleeps and bloops that was very successful at the time.

Fortunately, acclaimed music seems to have migrated more and more towards electronica, so I’ve inadvertently ended up liking  some of it. Not that this changes how cool I am, and it has with mixed feelings that I’ve seen artists like Robyn (who herself had been a pop queen briefly in the late 90s) turn from niche Scandinavian electro-pop to breakthrough artist. One less ‘best kept secret’ in my quite mainstream iTunes library. But with those stories come new artists who might even end up making better music than anything you’d heard before.

That’s not saying that upcoming Glasgow trio Chvrches have done that with their debut long-player, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.10 The mother we share – The first song I heard from them, and a gloriously trippy bit of electro-pop that got me hooked from the start. Lauren’s sweet vocals over the rich electro soundscape of the choruses and the stop-start verses is just bliss.

09 We sink – You know I’m going to try to stop mentioning Robyn so much, just listen to “Body talk” if you like this, marvellous album. This one feels akin to that sound, that throbbing pulse of a beat has a great energy, really enjoy this.

09 Gun – Love that squeaky little hook at the start. It would be easy for an album like this to sound a bit too flat and featureless but those little tweaks make tracks instantly distinguishable. Makes you wonder how they aren’t Scandinavian, it’s the first time I’ve felt so strongly that the sort of distinct sound of Nordic pop has been sighted elsewhere. Lovely track.

08 Tether – First bit of downtempo here, after that opening trio of sparky and bright pop. OK it doesn’t last long before the beat starts to kick in, but there’s this big open feel to this track, lots of echo and space. A bit world-weary but doesn’t kill the momentum of the album. The tone doesn’t change but it suddenly bursts into life at the end, lovely.

08 Lies – Another of those instant hooks, that vocal sample deployed with immediate effect. I love the weight to this one, and see how it got pitched as a single for this campaign. My only criticism is that I feel like the chorus gets a bit swamped with the big beats, but those verses are hard to deny.

08 Under the tide – What what? Male vocals are a bit of a surprise, but I think just what the album needs by this point, as lovely as Lauren’s vocals are. Reminds me of that band Shiny Toy Guns from ages ago, I think the mid 00’s were sort of formative years for me and electronic music for various reasons, and this sort of taps into that.

07 Recover – Back to business now, but this one’s not quite hitting the spot for me. I think it’s just the tempo that’s a little too slow. I like it, don’t get me wrong, particularly the infectious chorus, but that stop-start rhythm is a bit too top-heavy and lumbering.

07 Night sky – It’s hard to put your finger on what tracks resonate well with you and which don’t, and I can’t quite see why I don’t spark with this as much as the opening tracks. It’s got a nice pace, but the melody’s not quite doing it for me. The chorus’s backing vocals are a nice little boost though.

10 Science/Visions – Oh YES, this is more like it. Kicking off with that Daft Punk/Tron filtered intro, Lauren soars over this dark bit of electronica with ease. After the first minute, the background comes more into focus, and we have a dramatic, urgent bit of music. Almost has shades of Kate Bush in there somewhere. Gorgeous.

08 Lungs – Now for something completely different – much more light-hearted and bouncy, chugs along nicely with a sweet-as-pie vocal. Quite nice but the melody is a little basic, with the production rescuing this one, particularly the harsh Björkish stop-starts and samples.

07 By the throat – Drifting a little into the nondescript here it’s a pleasant listen, particularly when the shimmering chorus comes in. Maybe it’s just because it’s coming after “Lungs”, it feels a little insubstantial.

08 You caught the light – Did anyone play “Fez“? An odd thing to bring up now but this really reminds me of the wonderful soundtrack. Modern synths filtered to fit a vintage track, much like Fez used technology that would’ve seemed unthinkable 15 years ago to create a sophisticated throwback to the 8-bit days. Light on vocals, but I’m just enjoying the music here. If anything the vocal section is a distraction from it.

08 Strong hand – Closing off now, an interestingly thrown-back feel to this, like late-90s indie-pop; Dubstar, St Etienne, things like that. It doesn’t last long though, bursting into a bolshy and bombastic beat for the chorus, before meshing the two for latter verses. Interesting to listen to, which is pretty impressive for the end of a 50-minute album largely in the same sound.

What loony scores there, I don’t think there’s a duff track in there though. I didn’t really expect it, I never normally get on with critically acclaimed acts but it seems this is an exception.

I love the sound of this album, just the right mix of electronic and substance that I don’t often hear. As usual I can’t usually articulate why I like things, but let’s just leave it there for now. A top 10 album in the UK is certainly a good sign for them, I hope to hear more great things from them in the future.

Keepers for the iPod: The mother we share, We sink, Gun, Under the tide, Science/visions, Lungs, You caught the tide, Strong hand


1 Comment

Filed under Albums, Music, Reviews

One response to “Album: Chvrches – “The bones of what you believe” (2013)

  1. Pingback: My Top 50 of 2013: #40 – #31 | Verbal Diarrhoea

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