Hi, everyone! I’m Nathan, and because the GeeKon Record is desperately lacking in music-based geekery, I’ll be sharing recommendations for songs and albums that I have in heavy rotation and discussing other matters of music-nerd-ish importance. (Title for my column/section forthcoming, as soon as I can think of a clever name!)
2013 has been a great year for music and an absurdly busy year for me. The sheer volume of new releases has meant that I’ve had some albums sneak up on me. While browsing around on Spotify to procrastinate on homework, I’ve had moments where I’ve wondered when a band is going to get around to releasing a new album, only to discover that they’d done so two months ago. (At which point I feel a sharp pain in my hipster nerd-cred gland.)
I didn’t do this with The Bones of What You Believe. After hearing the band’s promotional EP back in March, I’ve been eagerly counting down the weeks until this album’s release–and now that it’s out, I can say that it’s even better than what I’d hoped.
Chvrches (pronounced like “churches,” but cooler-looking in print) are a girl and two guys from Glasgow who cut their teeth in various mopey Scottish indie rock bands, then decided it would be a good idea to play poppy electronic music instead. They’ve released a few promotional singles over the past year that have caught on in music blogs, on BBC radio, and on the Twitter feed of Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley (where I originally stumbled across them). Bones is their first album, but through its 12 tracks of shimmery, explosive synthpop, it sounds like the work of a band that’s already found its creative voice.
The secret to what makes this band work is the vocals. Lead singer Lauren Mayberry cuts through the walls of synths in these songs with intensely emotional performances throughout. Whether she’s struggling in the relationship limbo of “Recover” or delivering sing-song threats to a terrible ex in “Gun,” you can hear the ache in her voice as she sings. There’s a lot of relationship angst going on in the lyrics, and Mayberry’s able to get at that emotion and make it palpable. The other band members wisely get out of the way and let Mayberry do her thing, taking turns on the mic to joining in on some gorgeous guy/girl harmonies or call-and-response verses. The background vocals aren’t always elaborate–sometimes it’s just an “oh oh oh” here and there, processed through a synthesizer so it blends into the rest of the track–but they’re consistently thrilling.
The end result is an album of electronic pop that sounds unusually human. The songs are personal and intimate, but are simultaneously enormous and ridiculously catchy. It’s a testament to the quality of this album that I don’t skip any tracks when I listen through it–it’s all that good. It makes it hard to pick standout tracks, as the whole album is worth a listen. If you want recommendations on a starting point, though, I’d go for lead single “The Mother We Share,” “We Sink,” or “Recover”–the song that got me into this band in the place. All three nicely epitomize the whole “intimate but also huge and catchy” thing this album has going on.