The Bones of What You Believe—Chvrches Review
by Treehouse Editors
by M.G. Hammond
Scottish synthpop trio Chvrches’ debut album, The Bones of What You Believe, is a cosmically theatric and dynamic example of what electronic music is doing right these days. In only about the span of a year, the band has risen to popularity by gaining immense encouragement, quite fittingly, via the internet. Chvrches has elevated itself out of the over-saturated indie pop scene through a public forum where the demands of the listeners come first, producing a highly anticipated LP that we can all be proud of. The Bones of What You Believe more than delivers, and is sure to be a staple of this generation’s most highly regarded electropop music.
The songs, often rhythmically controlled and vocally paramount, harness typical sentiments and convert them to high-stakes, battle-like narratives. Lyrics that on the surface could be illustrative of banal relationship conflicts or personal epiphany, are transported into a prophetic dreamscape of sci-fi imagined struggles, war, and triumph. True to synth-heavy music tradition, the album is suggestive of a futuristic vision, fraught with toil and threat, and wrapped up in technological effect.
Lauren Mayberry’s voice, which is wonderfully spotlighted throughout the album, is ultra-feminine and dewy, possessing a sometimes overly juvenile delivery in stark contrast to the often dark and threatening lyrics. This contradiction provides a bruising tension that becomes a motif throughout the tracks. For example, in the song “Gun,” Mayberry chimes, “I am gonna break you down/ to tiny, tiny parts,” and “I will be a gun/And it’s you I’ll come for,” in a saccharin, charming melody, with a buttery timbre that’s a little difficult to take seriously in context, but melts on the eardrum at first listen.
As with many electronic albums, the influences from the 80s are hard to ignore. With synthesizers comes an inescapable reminiscence of the decade that revolutionized and popularized their use in contemporary music. The song “Tether” possesses elements of the classic pop ballad, hearkened to the more languid, sentimental verses of Cyndi Lauper or Madonna. And while the album may seem devoid of instantly memorable melodies or phrases, it finds its branding gem in the track “Recover,” which provides an identifying and catchy electronic arc that nods to the genre’s forebears while ensuring a prominent place in the current scene.
The LP is not without its weaknesses. It begins to lose stamina and is briefly drudged down towards the second half. The song “Night Sky” is possibly the least imaginative on the album, burdened with too-familiar melodies and even more expected rhymes (“I’m the night sky,/I’m the fire in your eyes,”). The subsequent track, “Science/Visions,” feels oddly over-ambitious; listening to it is not unlike watching a low-budget Sci-Fi film that just doesn’t have the sophisticated special effects necessary to pull off its grandiose ideas. The song implements discordant vocal calls and overdone percussive elements that ultimately feel melodramatic.
However, redemption comes in the form of “Lungs,” one of the stronger pieces of the album, with a high-energy and playful staccato that picks the listener back up in preparation for the nearing finale. “You Caught the Light” ends the album beautifully, carrying us through a dreamy, prophetic transcendence that the record seems to inevitably build towards. This final song has a vast quality to it, accented with rich bass sounds and drowsy, meandering instrumentals; it’s as if the song attempts to take hold of us from our earthly stargazing postures and gently lift us up, cast us off, and send us spinning out into space among its reverberating melodies.