After two self-produced albums, Scottish synthpop trio CHVRCHES have entered the studio with Greg Kurstin to create ‘Love Is Dead’. Taking a deeper delve into pop structures and removing most traces of the indie rock of previous releases, ‘Love Is Dead’ sees the group opt for a more mainstream approach.
Opener ‘Graffiti’ uses the tricks and charm that made CHVRCHES stand out in the first place. Getting straight to it, synthesised leads fight against syncopated drums over a blanket of thick bass lines.
As we reach the chorus, Lauren Mayberry‘s vocals soar amidst synthesisers doubling as guitars, and the group’s knack for hooks sinks in with lines such as “I’ve been waiting my whole life to grow old” circling around the haunting bridge.
The energy continues on with lead single ‘Get Out’, showcasing a sickly sweet chorus and an infectious bridge, illuminating the additional presence in the producers chair. ‘Deliverance’ continues in a similar vein, with nuances such as audio semantics setting it apart from the previous tracks.
‘My Enemy’ sees the group take a change in pace with creeping pads creating a dystopian atmosphere. The verse allows guest vocalist Matt Berninger to take control of the song, allowing the appearances of Mayberry‘s vocals to pop.
As the record continues on, the group take a more experimental approach, moving away from the fast paced compositions and favouring ambient builds. Whilst the experimentation is touched upon in ‘Miracle’, it becomes far more prominent within ‘Heaven/Hell’.
With a long burning introduction, the track relies on vocal dynamics and inflections on lines such as “Do you ever wonder what we learn?” to pull it forward. The subtle builds pay off with the synth led coda, but sadly it runs out of steam on the home stretch.
As we reach ‘II’, the group’s sonic experimentation pays off, using haunting piano melodies to create a 1950s horror instrumental, and they truly hit their stride in their new pursuit. The rising motif of the track swells into ‘Wonderland’, which takes strong elements from the previous risks taken on the record and seals them with melody. Using an urgent pace, it doesn’t give up, with a wide chorus taking control.
As the final piano notes ring out, its hard to not think about the faltering second half of ‘Love Is Dead’. Still, based on its final moments, we could be in for a real surprise next time around.