There was a time I was really into synthpop. And yes, I’m a huge fan of The Human League and Pet Shop Boys; thanks for asking. I also loved the early 2000s synthpop revival that brought bands like M83, La Roux, and Owl City to the forefront.
But of course, people quickly figured out you can have a synthesizer, drum machine and music sequencer all on your laptop and it’s way cheaper to book one guy with a computer than an actual band and approximately one million people started making synthpop overnight and the vast majority were terrible at it. Synthpop fatigue, my friends.
But hey, from the synthpop ashes rose some fine bands — CHVRCHES among them.
CHVRCHES is a Glasgow band that I think stands out from the synthpop glut, mostly due to their above average song writing and frontman Lauren Mayberry. Already their sound is cleaner than your average synthesizer-abusing band, but add Mayberry’s unique voice on top of that and you’re good. I saw them at Stubb’s, which was a great venue for them. By the time they came on the sun had already gone down, so their visuals and lights were on point. Mayberry’s vocal performance wasn’t flawless, but considering that she was recovering from a Coachella bug and how much they’ve been on tour in the last year, it’s completely understandable, and they were still extraordinarily good. The entire atmosphere was so good. I think that the reason why a lot of live electronica falters by performance standards is because much of it is caught in this in-between world of concert venue vs. dance club. Did we come to dance or did we come to listen to a band? They’re not exclusionary and Chvrches is a band that knows how to straddle that line. Also, they have a guitar in the band so they get extra band points.
Also on the bill at Stubb’s that night was Alvvays, a less synthy/more dreamy indiepop group out of Toronto.
Every year at SXSW, there’s one particular band that every audience, critic and passerby is like, “Whaaa???” and wanders into the venue to be amazed. In 2015, that band was Alvvays. And yeah, they’re really good. Again, superior songwriting, and a distinct and likeable vocal style (twangy but not country) from lead singer Molly Rankin. I’ve heard them described many times as “jangly,” and I have to agree. And yes, every single person sang along to “Archie, Marry Me” at the end of their set. Every. Single. Person.
I actually thought the two bands complimented each other very well, something that is harder to do on a double bill than most audiences realize, and it’s not just because they’ve both got ridiculous but necessary “V”s in their names. Good showing all around.
Setlist for Chvrches 4/28/16 (via setlist.fm):
- Never Ending Circles
- Keep You On My Side
- Empty Threat
- We Sink
- Playing Dead
- Bury It
- High Enough to Carry You Over
- Under the Tide
- Leave a Trace
- Clearest Blue
- Afterglow (encore)
- The Mother We Share (encore)
Setlist for Alvvays 4/28/16 (via setlist.fm)
- Atop a Cake
- Next of Kin
- Not my Baby
- Adult Diversion
- New Haircut
- Your Type
- Party Police
- Archie, Marry Me
Chvrches‘ future tour dates with various people can be found here. They will be on tour for the next 100 years so no big rush (when you’re hot you gotta take advantage).
Alvvays‘ future dates are all listed here (less hot but more bang for your buck, IMO).
Alvvays and Chvrches performed outdoors at Stubb’s on April 27th and 28th, 2016.