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Top Contender For Album Of The Year: CHVRCHES – The Bones Of What You Believe

Sometimes, when you own a great record like, let’s say Kate Bush’s The Hounds of Love, you don’t really need any records from the pale imitators like, say Tori Amos. (Bring it, haters.) It would be easy to dismiss Glasgow’s CHVRCHES by saying “oh hey, I already own Cocteau Twins and Robyn records, so I’m good.” To be fair CHVRCHES owes a great deal to both of those artists. Lead singer Lauren Mayberry’s vocals are multitracked to the point of dreaminess, much like the Twins did with Liz Fraser. There are shimmery electro-pop moments on the CHVRCHES debut that definitely could have appeared on any¬†Robyn record. That said, this debut, The Bones of What You Believe, is a really really great record. It manages to pay homage to its forbears while still sounding like a new record you really want to buy.

The lead single, Recover, has been out forfreakingever and is already one of my top songs for the year:

The big big electro keyboard sound makes it sound somewhat cheery and anthemic, but it really isn’t. Check out a stripped down version so you can hear the sad:

And that, dear readers, is what this record is really good at and what likely makes it transcend a lot of ’80s-aping groups. Tracks like “The Mother We Share” are a great example.

There’s enough synths for an Erasure record and drum machines galore, but the lyrics don’t match up with the sound:

I’m in misery where you can seem as old as your omens/
And the mother we share will never keep your proud head from falling

That disconnect – the trepidation and trouble on a bed of poppy synths – shouldn’t work very well but it really really works well. Sometimes the lyrics shift into outright menace like the do in “Gun” and it still sounds great:

You had better run from me/
with everything you own/
cause I am gonna come for you/
with all that I have/

I am gonna break you down/
to tiny, tiny parts

Should you buy it? Yes, yes, yes a thousand times yes. Synth pop not your bag? Don’t care. Girl vocalists not your thing? Doesn’t matter. This is unequivocally good pop music. Layered synths are your modern day Spector-esque Wall of Sound and you should learn to love it. Also, you can get it cheap if you pre-order from Amazon right now.

Rating: all the kittens, all the whips. A strong contender for album of the year.

The Bones of What You Believe is out September 24th on Glassnote records.

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  • The girl is cute, but all those synths leave me cold. Anyways, the album of the year is already locked up. I Hate Music by Superchunk. It is known.

    • I wouldn’t fight you too hard about I Hate Music because it is insanely good. F.O.H. might be my song of the year. True fact: yr humble correspondent had the pleasure of seeing Superchunk on tour in 1995 or 1996 but I was intoxicated enough that I literally remember not one minute of it, and I’m still mad at me.

      • I was a grad student at UNC in the 90’s, so I saw Superchunk live a zillion times. I’m going to relive me youth and see them again in a couple weeks in DC.

  • scott

    Thanks for the heads-up on this, the Glasgow scene is pretty impressive. I’ve always loved pathos-filled synth lines.

  • SullivanSt

    Hmm. Owning Hounds of Love would certainly obviate any need to own the long-deleted synthpop mediocrity Y Kant Tori Read (and The Big Picture does sound suspiciously similar to The Big Sky, even has almost the same title!) but once Amos stopped trying to write for what she thought the audience of the time would want and started writing what she wanted to right, her songs became able to connect in a way that I’ve never close to felt with Kate Bush’s work. Plus, how could you miss out on songs about masturbation?Oh and by the way, if my step-daughter ever finds out you haven’t already awarded album of the year to John Mayer, you might want to consider going into hiding.Also too, the competition for best album of the last 12 months is still locked up (for another 10 days) by The 2nd Law, no discussion allowed.