At the end of 2012, Scottish electro-pop trio Chvrches had little more to its name than a couple songs online and a bit of buzz. When The Bones Of What You Believe, the group’s first full-length, comes out this week, the band will be on a sold-out U.S. tour, playing bigger rooms than it had when it came through those same cities earlier this summer. The polite yet insistent buzz from the beginning of the year has grown to a roar by fall, making The Bones Of What You Believe one of 2013’s most anticipated albums.
Much of the attention Chvrches attracted last year was due to “The Mother We Share,” which the band had released online. It opens The Bones Of What You Believe and is the album’s leadoff single, with good reason: It’s one of the year’s best songs, propelled by overlapping synthesizers and a triumphant chorus that vocalist Lauren Mayberry carries higher with her lilting voice (made more charming because she doesn’t attempt to hide her accent). “The Mother We Share” attracted a lot of attention toward the end of 2012, but the band wisely kept it off March’s Recover EP and let it anchor the full-length.
As good as “The Mother We Share” is, it wouldn’t be enough to carry the album, but Chvrches follows it with an even catchier song, “We Sink,” and another solid track, “Gun,” making for one of the strongest starts to any album this year. The rest of the album doesn’t sag, either; the only track that stumbles is the moodier “Science/Visions,” and that’s mostly because the discordant backup vocals clash with the other melodies. The song finishes strong, though, and is preceded by a pair of standouts, “Recover” and “Night Sky.”
A lot has been made of Chvrches’ similarities to The Knife, but The Bones Of What You Believe owes more to earlier electro-pop and electronic rock bands, such as New Order, OMD, or even Yazoo. (The New Order/OMD comparison feels especially apparent when multi-instrumentalist Martin Doherty—a former touring member of The Twilight Sad—takes lead vocals on “Under The Tide.”) “Science/Visions” veers away from the album’s poppier sound and into straight-up EDM, and moody album closer “You Caught The Light”—led again by Doherty—conjures Disintegration-era Cure.
Chvrches’ bread and butter remains highly melodic, synthesizer-based pop, but with just the right amount of darkness, thanks in part to Mayberry. She has a law degree and a masters in journalism, so she writes like she has something to say, not just to fill the space in the songs. She, Doherty, and multi-instrumentalist Iain Cook have crafted one of the year’s best albums, which means that buzz won’t be dying down any time soon.