CHVRCHES is the kind of music you want to listen to. It’s the kind of music you listen to when falling asleep, waking up bleary eyed in the morning or dancing giddily to in a dim basement – and love every moment. Riding the waves of hype and critical acclaim their songs have already garnered, 'The Bones Of What You Believe' is the culmination of CHVRCHES trademark synth-pop style; merging incessantly catchy composition with Mayberry’s saccharine voice which ceaselessly manages to entice the senses with lucid hooks and solicitous lyrics. Being catapulted from night-on obscurity to a rising star in the oversaturated synth-pop and electronic music scenes based on only a few songs made for a daunting reception to their debut album but I am relieved to say the hype was justified.
Rather than stagnate, CHVRCHES have shone brighter and propelled themselves even further ahead of their competition – replacing their label as rising stars with a serious contender for one of the most progressive and iridescent acts of 2013. In the vast canyon of synth-pop creating anything with aspirations to continue being played past Radio 1s monthly song cycles is shooting for the stars. When basslines and catchy melody can now be churned out in a matter of hours, creating something which stands out is a serious feat. 'Lies' exploded onto the scene in mid-2012, the first exhilarating taste of a style which left you wanting more, combining precise synths and a vibrant soundscape with Mayberry’s enticing vocals. Ending abruptly with nothing more than a final clash of the synths and drums which dominated the song left the audience wanting more, and CHVRCHES didn’t disappoint with their next release, 'The Mother We Share'. Their first debut single, it delivered on all the promises made by 'Lies'. The jewel in CHVRCHES crown and rightfully the opening track on their album epitomises everything which they do so brilliantly. The reverberating synths and drums crescendo in perfect synchronicity with Mayberry’s euphoric and vulnerable voice, creating a rare sense of harmony not only within the song but also within the audience. Still prior to any album release, 'Recover' and 'Gun' were released, two more feathers in an already highly decorated cap, retaining everything that was initially brilliant about the group and taking on a more melancholy tone most noticeably with Mayberry’s vocals, which are discernibly more caustic and unhinged. The ominous repetition of “you better run, you better run” in 'Gun' is overflowing with confrontation and a testament to the versatility which Mayberry possesses. It is this that elevates CHVRCHES from the slew of mediocre synth-pop bands to something individual and memorable. Mayberry’s performances never cease to amaze with variety and dynamism, always stretching the limit of the already excellent composition with their nuanced and ardent inflections.
It is a rare thing for a band to include all of their acclaimed previous material on their debut album, and it was a worry I will admit to having regarding this particular record. However once again I am relieved to say 'The Bones Of What You Believe' does not disappoint on the whole and tracks like 'Tether' and the aberrant 'Lungs' - where the male backing vocals are excellent - are a joy to listen to. 'We Sink' puts Mayberry’s exceptionally powerful, soaring voice centre stage to communicate a message about persistent, endless love. Yet there are a few weaknesses, 'You Caught the Light' being the most notable, which perplexingly abandons the formula CHVRCHES have perfected and Mayberry altogether for a dreary slow burner which left us rather confused as to what we were listening to. 'By The Throat', another song which really leaves Mayberry in the background, makes a similar mistake by not sticking to and building on what CHVRCHES do so well.
For the vast majority though, 'The Bones of What You Believe' is an outstanding album and will surely cement CHVRCHES as one of the most sought after and memorable acts of 2013. Mayberry has displayed a versatility and humility in her voice which enables her to make the most of and enhance every superb melody they compose. Whilst the formula will not last forever, and CHVRCHES will need to experiment if they are to keep racing ahead at the pace they are, 'The Bones of What You Believe' is a fantastic debut album and one that will surely enable them to continue to soar.
Words: Morris Seifert