The Bones Of What You Believe by Chvrches
There’s been a revival over the past couple years in the sounds of the 80s, and I would pin the start of this revival to the soundtrack for the 2011 movie Drive, which was a throwback itself. The highlights of that soundtrack were “Night Call” by French DJ Kavinsky and “A Real Hero” by another Frenchman, David Grellier, an electronic musician known as College.
The Bones Of What You Believe, the fantastic debut album from Chvrches, from Glasgow, Scotland, is the culmination of this revival. Synthesizers, drum machines and echo effects provide the foundation for an album steeped in the past. There is little surprise to this album, other than it is solid from start to finish. This is no one-hit wonder. Each song on the album is a hit in its own right, one worthy of only the best kind of car karaoke.
A trio, Chvrches is made up of lead singer Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty, all of whom play keyboards and drum machines throughout the album. Mayberry’s treacly vocals, dripping with emotion, fuel large swells of passionate, impossibly perfect electronic sounds. “Overly produced” doesn’t even begin to qualify when listening to this album, as it is so over the top that nothing can compare. I would normally shy away from such production, preferring the humanity in the slightly off-key vocal or guitar string, but in the hands of these three perfection is the name of the game, through and through.
Chvrches is the best new band of 2013. No band has created a debut album as powerful as this one in 2013. I got to see the band play Seattle for the first time back in September, and, concentrating on “Recover,” the song shown in the video above, I summed up their songs accordingly:
The band’s songs are amazingly catchy, and very much de riguere. Heavy keyboards driven by repetitive, synthetic drums build each song to a flurry of activity, with Mayberry’s voice imparting a sense of urgency that draws you into your headphones like a tornado. My first experience of the band was “Recover,” from the EP of the same name that was released back in March. What was most unique about the song was also what drove me most crazy. Mayberry’s droning lyric throughout the song “I’ll give you one – more – chance; to say we can change – our – old – ways; and you take – what – you – need; and you know – you – don’t – need me” is every-so-slightly off beat from the underlying synthesizers (go ahead and try to bop your head to the drum beat, rather than her lyrical beat, and the difference is painfully obvious).
While they killed the Showbox that night by playing their entire album, the highlight of their performance turned out to not be one of their songs, but a cover, which they were seemingly unprepared to play but had to for lack of any other song to play in the crowd-demanded encore:
“We only have one more song we can play. Not to be typecast as ‘the band that covers that song,’ but here it is:” a perfectly-played version of Prince and The Revolution’s “I Would Die 4 U.” (CHVRCHES has actually recorded their version of the song, which can be heard here — note the cute name change, too.) It’s almost as if the band was put together and has come so far specifically to play this song.
It’s unclear if this album will stand the test of time. It’s difficult for a band so rooted in the past to hold onto the present while avoiding the “fad” label. But for now, I’m loving it, and you will, too.
5. The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You by Neko Case
6. In Focus? by Shugo Tokumaru
7. Psychic by Darkside
8. AMOK by Atoms for Peace
9. White Lighter by Typhoon
10. Hummingbird by Local Natives
11. If You Leave by Daughter
12. Pedestrian Verse by Frightened Rabbit
13. The Silver Gymnasium by Okkervil River
14. The Next Day by David Bowie
15. Reflektor by Arcade Fire
16. We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic by Foxygen
17. Lanters by Son Lux
18. Howlin’ by Jagwar Ma
19. Impersonator by Majical Cloudz
20. Dream Cave by Cloud Control
21. Mole City by Quasi
22. Phantogram by Phantogram
23. Julia With Blue Jeans On by Moonface
24. Uncanney Valley by The Dismemberment Plan
25. Event II by Deltron 3030
26. Wise Up Ghost by Elvis Costello and The Roots
27. Us Alone by Hayden
28. Pure Heroine by Lorde
29. Shaking the Habitual by The Knife
30. False Idols by Tricky
31. Let’s Be Still by The Head and the Heart