Release Date: May 25, 2018
Record label: Glassnote Entertainment Group
The third album by Glasgow's Chvrches, Love is Dead, is the sound of your heart as it falls back in love. Let me set the scene. You're in a club, and there's your ex. They shuffle toward you. Press play on track one. 'Graffiti'; a symphonic sunrise that's akin to the chemical-burn sensation when ….
When Chvrches first emerged in 2012, it was clear the trio were on to something special. Building upon the heady foundations of debut ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’, 2015 follow-up ‘Every Open Eye’ saw them burst into searing life. A second album that catapulted them to massive stages and the top of festival bills worldwide, it saw them transform their brand of eloquent electro-pop into bombastic bangers.
As album titles come, 'Love Is Dead' is a hefty one. Weighty with fiery pessimism, like a Jenny Holzer mantra etched angrily into a slab of stone, it's a starting point that doesn't leave a lot of space for hope. Or so you'd think, anyway. In the case of CHVRCHES' third album, the statement comes with a silent, but enormous, question mark.
The first two albums of Scottish synth-pop trio CHVRCHES' career have shown how brilliant and how average they can be, largely in equal measure. Most of their debut album, The Bones Of What You Believe, is about as good as this sub-genre can possibly get, applying expressive and substantive melodic runs to infectious beats and brought together by the fascinatingly unique vocals of Lauren Mayberry. The second album, Every Open Eye, was less successful in showing off the band's obvious talents— the opening couple of tracks aside— swapping these beautiful synth melodies for a more pulsating, beat-focused record that felt more one-dimensional and, ultimately, less revelatory.
There's no small glory in purging pent-up emotions through giant hooks and a pumping synth beat, so Chvrches is worth celebrating for that alone. Yet one of the most striking things about the Scottish synth-pop group is how well each of trio's albums stands on its own: they don't seem like successive entries in a catalog that is building toward some all-encompassing Grand Statement so much as from-scratch recreations of specific feelings at distinct moments in time. Put another way, each of Chvrches' three LPs so far is an accessible way into the band's music, and you can dive in pretty much anywhere and come up with gold.
Since forming in 2011, the Scottish trio Chvrches have refined synth-pop for the festival age, taking the chilly atmospherics of early electro and piling on flourishes designed to divert distracted attendees' attentions away from art installations and friends' conversations, with vocalist Lauren Mayberry's airy soprano contorting into stretched-out pleas and percussive stuttering. It's partly cloudy music, defined by the way its dreariness balances with the glimmers of light that shine through. For their third album, Chvrches have enlisted Greg Kurstin, whose studio skills have turned Tegan and Sara's sharply angled harmonies into a baseline for pop euphoria and given Beck a solid middle ground between his genre-bending experimentalism and his singer-songwriter side.
Chvrches influenced mainstream pop with The Bones of What You Believe and Every Open Eye, and on Love Is Dead, mainstream pop returns the favor. As distinctive as their heartfelt electro-pop is -- and how well they do it -- Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook, and Martin Doherty recognized they needed some variety on their third album. Instead of self-producing Love Is Dead, they opened their creative process to collaborators who reflect the roots of their sound as well as its place in the 2010s.
The onus on any band naming their album Love Is Dead is to either prove it or prove it wrong. Uncompromising statements have been Chvrches' currency since the beginning: short, punchy phrases that alternately empower and eviscerate. The title of the Scottish trio's third album refers to what singer Lauren Mayberry has called society's "death of empathy" and it accompanies 13 songs designed to get more people than ever to notice that message.
"Careful what you wish for," intones Lauren Mayberry on Miracle. Quite what Chvrches were wishing for is open to conjecture, but after two self-produced albums, their decision to work with multi-Grammy winning producer Greg Kurstin on Love is Dead suggests that they might have an open eye on bringing their sound in from the peripheries of the indie world and depositing it directly into the mainstream. Initially, in terms of sound, it seems as if nothing much has changed.
Chvrches' third album sees the Scottish trio changing tact. While the band had previously been insular, this time they wrote lyrics together for the first time, sought advice from Eurythmics' Dave Stewart and worked with super producer Greg Kurstin (Adele, Sia). The changes were supposedly to avoid the band becoming complacent - but it often seems like that's exactly what happened.
To download, click "Share" and right-click the download icon | iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS The Lowdown: CHVRCHES burst onto the mainstream music scene in 2013 with big synths, bigger hooks, and almost immediate international success. But there was also a sort of scrappy, confrontational passion to their first record and its follow-up, Every Open Eye, especially present in lead singer Lauren Mayberry's vocal delivery, that made the music stick in ways that go beyond a typical well-constructed pop earworm. On their third full-length, Love Is Dead, the Scottish synth pop band go broader than ever before, embracing all the hallmarks of successful pop singles and abandoning much of the fierceness, attitude, and strangeness that made their past music feel unique and urgent.
They'd succeeded where so many British bands have failed; gaining as equal a foothold in the American market as back home. They'd been playing the biggest festival slots of their career. The positive critical consensus was solid: that they'd been able to take the penchant for anthemic miserabilism shared by so many of their Glasgow peers and turn it on its head, applying a much more colourful instrumental palette to make something that, sonically at least, was bright and beautiful rather than bleak and beautiful - all the while belying the emotional turbulence in Lauren Mayberry's lyrics.