First Listen: Chvrches, 'The Bones Of What You Believe...
Listen to Chvrches' The Bones of What You Believe streaming now via WFUV and NPR Music prior to its September 24 release on Glassnote Records.
In the span of roughly a year, the Scottish electro-pop group Chvrches has secured all the trappings of Next Big Thing-dom — a flurry of MP3s on all the requisite blogs, a cloud of acclaim floating in from Europe, a string of highly regarded performances at SXSW, and so on — without a full-length album to go on. It's a familiar trajectory, but Chvrches feels more warmly accessible and chart-ready than most bands to have taken that ride. If the trio were to score a string of giant pop hits upon the release of The Bones of What You Believe, it would hardly qualify as a surprise.
Though it can be ominous, even aggressive, Chvrches' music maintains a disarming fizziness. Its sound and approach aren't arch or unapproachable; this is, after all, a band that frequently covers Prince onstage, including a version of "I Would Die For U" recast as "I Would Die For V." It's toured with Depeche Mode, which says a lot about both its aesthetic — though Chvrches opts for sprightly melancholy over the dour seriousness of its heroes — and its ability to draw on synth-driven '80s pop sounds for inspiration. Singer Lauren Mayberry, a former music journalist who's toiled in local bands around Glasgow, has an idiosyncratically lovely voice to match her understanding of what builds a frontwoman's mystique; she knows how and when to project charm, vulnerability, guts and grit.
Out Sept. 24, The Bones of What You Believe does a fine job gathering up all of Chvrches' charms into one diverse but cohesive collection of brightly rendered buzzy wonders. Those who've followed the band's rise closely will recognize roughly a third of these songs: "The Mother We Share," "Lies," "Recover," and "Gun" have already surfaced as singles in the run up to this, a big moment in its short but eventful history. But those fully vetted highlights don't overwhelm the eight lesser-known tracks here — even those in which Mayberry cedes the spotlight to capable bandmates Iain Cook (a veteran of Aerogramme) and Martin Doherty (a touring member of The Twilight Sad). Instead, all 12 songs help paint a picture of Chvrches as a band ready for the world; one that bridges styles and eras on the strength of its own charisma. — Stephen Thompson