Released September 20, 2013
Standard edition length 48 min
Have you ever listened to an album and immediately become obsessed with it?
I’ve had this happen to me a couple of times. Nine Inch Nails’ Hesitation Marks, blink-182’s Neighborhoods, Against Me!’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues, and CHVRCHES’ The Bones of What You Believe are the ones that come to mind in particular.
To put that last album in perspective a bit, let’s look at my last.fm account.
I’ve had this account for about fifteen months, but it also registered a ton of listens prior to my account being created. As you can see, CHVRCHES is the number two artist, above a ton of artists that I like a lot more, and that have a lot more music than CHVRCHES.
That’s 576 scrobbles on a single album. I think it’s fair to call that obsession.
What is it that drew me to this album? I’m not sure. It’s incredibly catchy, for one. The Bones of What You Believe, and CHVRCHES in general, represents 80’s music sensibilities wrapped in modern sound. CHVRCHES is unabashed synthpop – there’s not a single “organic” instrument to be found in the entire album. Their music is intricate but simple at the same time, with their lyrics following the same path. There are no high concepts here. What CHVRCHES is, is a band that thrives on making easily digestible, infectious music. And it’s all fantastic.
A lot of that is thanks to Lauren Mayberry, the band’s vocalist, whose Scottish accent gives her a unique, easily identifiable voice, very pleasing to the ears. This is a band that has a strong, distinct sound, one that I think (and hope) will take them very far in their career. In a lot of ways, I’m reminded of Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine, an album sitting ostensibly in the same genre as The Bones of What You Believe. When comparing the two, however, they couldn’t be more different.
Pretty Hate Machine is a dark, negative album. Incidentally, it’s about as positive as Nine Inch Nails would ever be, mostly due to the infectious production and upbeat pop sensibilities forced on Reznor by the multitude of TVT-chosen producers, a sound that Reznor subsequently subverted at every opportunity during the tours supporting the album. The lyrics are deeply personal – “straight out of the diary,” in Reznor’s words. This made for a catchy, if unsettling, listen.
The Bones of What You Believe is none of that. From front to back, this album is almost universally positive, universally upbeat, positively drowning in more conventional pop. That’s not bad, either – it makes the album very easy to listen to pretty much at any opportunity, which fed into why I’ve listened to it over a hundred times.
CHVRCHES knocked it out of the park with The Bones of What You Believe. A fantastic debut album, it’s some of the best pop music we could ask for in 2013, introducing us to a band with an incredibly bright future.
Here’s to that future.