Misspelling your band name on purpose for the sake of search engine optimization is a pretty clever thing to do. Sure, switching out the “u” in “Churches” for a “v” raises questions about pronunciation (“Chuh-ver-chizz”?), but that single-letter switcheroo may have been the reason for Chvrches’ rise from being completely unknown at the start of 2012 to having one of the year’s most anticipated albums in 2013.
Well, The Bones Of What You Believe was rightfully anticipated. It’s a highly enjoyable pop album, and just like the band’s name, it has subtle, clever touches that help it rise above standard electropop fare.
Bones is not a meandering sonic journey; it’s a tightly focused collection of tunes, most of which could conceivably be released as singles. They’re catchy and singable, but that doesn’t mean that the songs are boring. Bones often pairs simple vocal melodies with complicated keyboard lines and off-kilter, syncopated beats. It results in an album that’s less danceable than many electropop albums, but that also holds up better to repeated listens.
In fact, the album shines when it showcases its most intricate synthesizer lines: “Gun,” the coda of “Tether,” and the chorus of “By the Throat” are highlights in that regard. Chvrches never pushes these lines to the forefront, instead using them as sparkling ornamentation. It’s a clever production decision that demonstrates remarkable restraint.
Bones also shows restraint by resisting the urge to fill a record with nothing but sugary pop tunes. In fact, the album probably owes more to decades-old new wave than to modern pop music, employing a reverb-laden style of production that gives the album a retro sound. The dark but catchy “Gun” and the boiling, driving “Science/Visions” make great use of minor keys, while on other tracks like “Lies” and “Recover,” heavy synthesizer lines prevent the entire affair from being too sunny.
Unfortunately, Bones often falls apart lyrically. The lyrics are never bad, but they don’t seem particularly meaningful, which can make listening to the album somewhat of an empty experience. Still, vocalist Lauren Mayberry sings them with conviction and without pointless vocal gymnastics – yet another case of tasteful restraint.
Overall, The Bones Of What You Believe is the rare great album that manages to justify the hype leading up to it. Chvrches has released a highly promising debut record, one that hopefully presages even greater things in the future.