chvrches the bones of what you believe

“Catchy” has become a dirty word in the world of music, and especially dangerous in the realm of electronic music. For serious artists, “catchy” is a bad neighborhood where no one wants to get lost. Few make it out unscathed, and those who do are often cursed with a permanent “catchy” badge attached to them for life. To be catchy without substance is practically a death sentence for artists hoping to transcend this label, and after their debut single “The Mother We Share” it seemed that CHVRCHES would be hard pressed to escape from their “catchy” fate. However, nearly a year and a half later their debut full-length album The Bones of What You Believe breaks free of the catchy curse and reveals a much more serious path for the Glasgow-based trio.

Blogs have buzzed about singles “The Mother We Share,” “Lies,” and “Recover” for months, comparing their synthpop, 80’s inspired tracks to the likes of Purity Ring and M83, but this new album sounds completely and refreshingly theirs. Listeners fell in love with these first few releases for their sugary accessibility, neon melodies, and the undeniable charm of their frontwoman Lauren Mayberry. With these glimmering tracks sprinkled throughout TBOWYB the album is an entirely enjoyable listen.

However, beneath the welcoming candyland surface the album is dark pool of aggressive lyrics that pack a swift punch upon successive listens. Mayberry coos “I’ll be a gun/And it’s you I’ll come for” on “Gun” sliding candy-coated menace into an otherwise danceable song. On “By the Throat” she belts “All that’s gold is never real,” a syrupy line as sincere as the charm with which she presents it. These are not love songs, yet the intensity of the lyrics disguised by twinkling synths  brings just as much euphoria as a pop album.

The twelve original tracks share the same dazzling atmospherics, giving the album a clear cohesiveness, almost to the point of homogeneity, though several tracks stand out as gems of variety. “Lungs” emerges from the sea of joyful melodies as a striking syncopation reminiscent of early Sleigh Bells rhythms. The wafting vocals on “Tether” wouldn’t be out of place on a Chromatics album, yet they fit in perfectly as a short detour from the upbeat electronic path of the rest of the album. These unique nuggets promise that CHVRCHES can do much more than their usual upbeat tunes.

Despite the tendencies of albums this sweet to be a sugar overkill, TBOWYB is an enjoyable listen even in one sitting, and doesn’t wear down after several plays; it begs to be replayed from loud speakers in a room with space to dance. It is a promising album with the perfect mix of catchiness and substance, leaving listeners eager for a sophomore release. TBOWYB lives up to the hype, and delivers honest, dark lyrics all wrapped up in an approachable, glowing synthpop cocoon that you don’t need a sweet tooth to enjoy.