Monday, June 25, 2018

Chvrches - Love is Dead - third album's the charm!

My sister suggested I check out the band Chvrches last year because she felt like the lead singer looked like "a girl from the anime you watch." Well, I don't know about that, but the lead singer Lauren Mayberry really is cute and has a light, occasionally imperfect, and lovely accented (Scottish) voice. Their first two albums really only had one song that stuck out, but it blew me away: "Mother We Share." I have been obsessed with that song and while I liked the other songs okay, especially watching them live, they just didn't have the emotional impact I look for when listening to music. I can certainly imagine a large group of people who would like their music intently. It's a mix of electronic, euro, pop, dance...etc...and a bit dark. But me, I want songs that make my heart feel.

I was therefore eager to listen to "Love is Dead" their third album in the hopes that it would rise up to the potential of "Mother We Share" across a whole album. It almost does and it is certainly their strongest album to date. I made the awesome decision to order it on vinyl which came with free mp3s of the album. It's perfect, not only do I have the mp3s for my phone, but in an apocalypse I can make a hand-cranck gramophone and listen to music still! The album art is beautiful and perfect for the spirit of the music and the vinyl is the coolest transparent blue. I'm totally happy with the purchase.

Many people have described Chvrches music as being reminiscent of the 80s. I can certainly see that comparison but it never felt quite right to me. Then, listening to this album, several of the songs, particularly the best ones, really did feel like I was listening to hits from the 80s, so I went back and listened to hit songs that were actually from the 80s. You know what? Churches does it better! The 80s songs didn't hold up, they were a bit too slow, the production was weak, and although they had nostalgia, they didn't have much heart. On the contrary, my favorite songs on "Love is Dead" FELT like what I wanted 80s music to sound like but actually doesn't. This is a total win for Chvrches.

Chvrches is a threesome with the two gents handling most of the music load. However, they reached out for some support in the production of this album and it shows. On this album, I really like hearing a mix of real drums with the electronic and they have even been touring with a drummer expanding into a quartet. Even better, where their first two albums struggled with very weak melodies and dark production, here we get much more melodic lead vocals with stronger hooks. Many will disagree with me but I'm a fan of their poppier work and this album has at least four really standout songs that hit those marks well. Some songs however feel more like the first two albums which means they don't do much for me, but the best ones are endlessly re-listenable. I think I could play "Get Out" and "Never Say Die" on loop forever and be happy.

This is definitely my favorite Chvrches album. 4 standout songs, 2 pretty good songs and 6+1 other tracks. Overall a solid release. Definitely worth it for the 4 standouts and the blue vinyl with great cover art. Rating: 7/10 "recommended" as an album but "Get Out" and "Never Say Die" are 9/10s as singles and "Graffiti" and "Miracle" are both 8/10s.

Song by song analysis:

01 - Graffiti - good song
02 - Get Out - great hook, maybe my favorite song on the album.
03 - Deliverance - the verse melody and music is some of the most 80s-ish on the album, the hook doesn't totally take over though, so it doesn't quite arrive as a great song.
04 - My Enemy  - guest vocals by Matt Beninger - his voice just doesn't do anything for me, the beat behind it is pretty empty and sparse which doesn't do him any favors. The song overall doesn't get me hyped up the way some of the others do.
05 - Forever - the pre-chorus has a nice little break down feel to it, but the chorus it leads to is pretty bland. Too bad, because even though the verses are only okay and the pre-chorus is good, the chorus is a let down.
06 - Never Say Die - another standout song, one of the two best on the album. Her voice is just so beautifully hers on the verses: all the little imperfections we love about her singing. Great pre-chorus both melodically and production, really builds into the chorus, "never never never ever never ever ever." (God bless her for remembering that, even live!) One of the best on the album
07 - Miracle - another standout on the album, good melody, strong beat in the chorus, interesting to hear her through distorted vocals which is a production technique I love, but so different than the lightness of her normal delivery. Still not sure how I feel about it on her voice, but not in a bad way. Good song!
08 - Graves - this also has a distinctly 80s vibe with the production, the chorus melody is decidedly not awesome to me, many will probably like it and disagree, but it doesn't work for me. I like the bouncy feel of the verses even though its not a style I actually like in a song, so I probably won't listen to this much. I just can't get into this song like I think I should. It just missed the mark somehow.
09 -Heaven/Hell - the verse lyrics and melody and production do nothing for me. She doesn't even sound like herself on the pre-chorus, just generic sounding vocals - some sort of production on her voice as well as her delivery depersonalizes it. The chorus melody is okay, but the production doesn't get me pumping but it's' close to an okay song.
10 - God's Plan - a song where Martin(?) provides the main vocals - his voice would probably work fine in any number of indie bands, but it just doesn't do it for me in Chvrches. The lyrics and melodies are also not very inspiring on this. This is a song very much like those on the first two Chvrches albums in style and a lot less 80s and more synth-dance-trance-I don't know the genre names well...
11 - Really Gone - her opening "I" is one of the best sung single letters ever in the history of music. A simple slow opening verse, beautifully sung pre-chorus "I'm holding on" just perfectly imperfectly sung opening line to the pre-chorus, some of her best (meaning most emotionally resonant) singing on the whole album throughout this song, the song never really arrives anywhere though, so okay end of album track, but that's about it. Definitely not a single-type song. The production is mostly a pulsing single synth with some light accents of her melody on another synth.
12 - ii - creepy-ish instrumental piano tinkling with some talking in the background. It's not really a song at all. Just a 1 minute filler, don't' really know why it's on here.
13 - Wonderland - nice change in how she vocally goes from the verse to the pre-chorus linking the phrasing rather than making them two distinct sections. Big beat on the chorus - it's a slower song, so probably not single-worthy just from that, but probably the 5th strongest song on the album.

 What did you think? Let's hear it in the comments.


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