Album: The Bones Of What You Believe
Rating: 3 / 5
Although “The Bones Of What You Believe” is CHVRCHES’ debut album, it feels like they have been around for a while now. A string of singles starting in late 2012—“The Mother We Share,” “Recover,” “Now is Not the Time,” “Gun”— were all critically acclaimed and fairly successful.
An EP, “Recover,” was released in March of this year and contained a couple of songs that had been released already and a couple of remixes of those songs. All in all, it seemed like CHVRCHES were keeping a tight lid on their musical output.
All that has led “The Bones Of What You Believe” to be a hotly anticipated album. Their singles have proven that CHVRCHES have the ability to write fantastic pop songs; the slow and deliberate way they have been releasing music made it seem like any album would be carefully crafted and well-developed.
Unfortunately, this is not really the case with “The Bones Of What You Believe.” Despite its 45 minutes length, it’s an album that feels more like a long EP than it does an actual album. It’s a collection of songs that all sound similar, without much flow or cohesion between them all.
It’s telling that the first song on the album is “The Mother We Share,” probably CHVRCHES most famous song and maybe their best, and then proceeds to alternate between previously-released-single and non-single for the first seven songs. After listening to the album numerous times, I can hardly remember what tracks two, four and six sound like— other than that they’re not the great singles.
After that, the back half of the album pretty much fades away. “By The Throat” is the one standout from the second half of the album, and the only really great song on “The Bones Of What You Believe” that wasn’t a single already.
“The Bones Of What You Believe” exists in a recent tradition that goes from Robyn’s 2010 magnum opus “Body Talk” right through M83’s 2011 effort “Hurry Up We’re Dreaming” (which spawned “Midnight City”) to Purity Ring’s 2012 debut “Shrines.” All of these are so-called indie artists that make pretty straightforward pop music – what often gets labeled as “synthpop” or “electropop” (as if Kanye West, Katy Perry, and mainstream pop didn’t use synthesizers or electronics).
CHVRCHES sit somewhere at the intersection of these artists. They’re not bombastic bubblegum pop like Robyn. They’re less musically experimental than Purity Ring. They share some similarities with Chromatics’ 80-minute, 2012 pop-epic “Kill For Love,” although CHRVCHES are much more oriented towards the three-and-a-half minute pop song than Chromatics are.
The problem is that all of these other albums are great pop albums. “The Bones Of What You Believe” has some fantastic pop songs on it, but you’ve heard almost all of them before, and the rest of the album doesn’t do much but add filler in between the great bits.
Which leads me to one last problem I have with this album: the inexplicable absence of “Now is Not the Time.” Released on the “Recover” EP, “Now is Not the Time” easily competes with “The Mother We Share” for CHVRCHES’ best song. I really can’t understand why it was left off of the album.
If you love CHVRCHES’ singles, there’s no reason not to check out “The Bones Of What You Believe.” You could easily have a more gracious opinion of it than I do. Unfortunately, I don’t see myself returning to this album very often except to play the three or four songs I’ve been listening to on YouTube for months.