Look Good, But Don’t Be Obsessed

Ask me what my favourite band is from 2010 to the present, and I’ll tell you one of them is Chvrches. What started out as an innocuous little electropop outfit has matured before our eyes, the songwriting improving, the musicianship evolving, and the emergence of a powerful female voice in popular music. Every new release shows another side to this sneakily multifaceted band, but their fourth album took them to an entirely new level.

Three years removed from the all-out, pop-oriented effort with producer Greg Kurstin that was Love is Dead, Chvrches decided to reset, refocus, and figure out where they were going to take their distinct brand of synth-pop next. Taking on production duties themselves, Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook, and Martin Doherty emerged with a fourth album that’s their most focused, driven work since their landmark debut The Bones of What You Believe. While exhibiting plenty of growth and experimentation, Screen Violence never for a moment feels forced, as each song plays to each individual’s strengths.

Of course, Mayberry’s vocal presence is crucial, and she turns in her strongest work as both a singer and a lyricist. Often dwelling on what it’s like being a young, assertive woman in the 2020s, Mayberry is candid, vulnerable, and indefatigable on such tracks as “He Said She Said”, “Good Girl”, and “Final Girl”. However, the biggest revelations on Screen Violence are when Chvrches dip their toes in vintage goth and dreampop. “Lullabies” is utterly charming with its chiming guitars and thudding beat, “Nightmares” feels epic and cinematic, and “How Not to Drown” is a sensational duet with Robert Smith, whose emotion matches Mayberry’s step for step. Chvrches have never sounded this focused, this refined, this grown up.