By: Jessica Nakamoto –
Since the release of their second album nearly three years ago, Scottish synthpop band, CHVRCHES, have been busy dropping breadcrumbs of sorts to eager fans. With a steadfast determination to protect their moody-punk meets cheery-pop identity against unwanted prodding, the trio have worked as solitary musicians and enacted a somewhat closed-door production process. Remaining true to this methodology, they succeeded in crafting all their previous works, including 2015’s Every Open Eye, without any outside influence.
Yet, 2018 is a year of change and CHVRCHES was not about to be left behind. With their upcoming album, Love is Dead, (out May 25 via Glassnote Records), the threesome worked hard to push themselves to become more open than ever before. As a result, for the first time in CHVRCHES’s history, the band introduced outside members to the inner-sanctum of their creative process. Having previously worked with big names such as Adel and Sia, American producer/songwriter, Greg Kurstin, was a welcome addition as co-producer for eight of the band’s new tracks. Further collaboration even included The National’s, Matt Berninger, who lent his vocals for two songs. With these quality additions, CHVRCHES not only maintained their unique musical identity but refined their sound into a collection that keyboardist/vocalist, Martin Doherty described, “most accurately represents us”.
Thus, with a musical revolution in place and a tangible buzz of excitement brewing, fans were relieved that CHVRCHES had no intention of leaving them completely in the dark. Preceding the album drop next week, the band released four singles off Love is Dead.
The hit song, “Miracle”, was one of the four tracks to catch fire with the CHVRCHES fan base, and for good reason. The song epitomizes the signature dark edge that weaves its way throughout the band’s best work. Lead vocalist, Lauren Mayberry, both admits defeat and searches for hope as she questions, “we’re looking for light inside an ocean of night, but will we ever see it through?” However, the affection for a brighter path is just the beginning of CHVRCHES’ explorative deep-dive into love throughout the album. The 13 tracks making up Love is Deadtouch upon the expansive range of love, stepping beyond the purely romantic appeal and out into less explored realms. Indeed, in typical CHVRCHES style, the trio ignored the popular “matter-of-fact” or “love-guru” approach and dove straight into their own interpretation of what it means to really love.
With “Deliverance”, Mayberry immediately plunges the discussion into hotly contested water as she provides a criticism of religious endearment. She boldly cautions listeners with lines such as, “careful when you’re swimming in the holy water, drowning in your own beliefs. Careful when you’re standing at a broken alter asking if we feel relief… is it deliverance if you can never change? Is it deliverance if you hurt me in exchange?” Through this declaration, Mayberry proves she isn’t scared to walk the line or challenge authority.
In fact, bold confrontation is something that CHVRCHES believe society should be doing a lot more of in modern times. With “Graves”, Mayberry directly addresses a political system that has sat by idly while the world continues to burn. Facing both society and those in power, she both pleas with the people and callously questions authority stating, “they’re leaving bodies in stairwells or washing up on the shore. Do you really expect us to care what your waiting for, when your high in your castle keeping an eye on the door? Oh, baby you can look away while they’re dancing on our graves. But I will stop at nothing”.
While CHVRCHES clearly demonstrate a strong opinion, they stray away from directly claiming right and wrong. Rather, they begin a process that prompts listeners through an almost Socratic sequence of questions, with self-actualization rather than lectures acting as the guiding principle. This method, on paper, leaves the final verdict up to the beholder. However, while this appears to be a more open-ended method of debate, the trio cleverly produces an argument that is nonetheless, unquestionably strong in its persuasive tactics. While there are no outright accusations that “religion is bad” or “politicians are evil”, CHVRCHES do make listeners question their own impacts for better and especiallyfor worse.
Overall, there’s a special kind of depth that can be found in CHVRCHES’ unique take on love. As the trio points out, there are more questions than answers when it comes to this particular topic. While society may be in a bad spot, it’s up to people to dig themselves out of the darkness and back into the glowing embrace of love and hope. On this matter, keyboardist/vocalist, Iain Cook, provides one last thing for listeners to ponder as he states, it’s all about the, “ellipsis at the end. It’s Love is Dead…how did we get to this point? And how do we move on from this point?… Love is Dead, we’re fucked, what’s next?” While, the future may be a mystery, CHVRCHES hasmade it clear that they are ready to embrace change. This bodes well for the young band as the revolution they so graciously spear-headed appears to have only just begun.
Recommended Tracks: “Miracle”, “Graves”, and “Deliverance”