Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Choir of Young Believers: This Is for the White in Your Eyes

Choir of Young Believers does't have the weirdest name in indie rock, but it's kinda up there (Architecture in Helsinki or Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin have that honor). What is a bit weird--in a good way--is their sound. I'm not sure how to describe it, but if I had to give it a go, I'd say it's part Fleet Foxes (lead singer's voice/lots of reverb) with an Arcade-Fire-on-horse-tranquilizers backing band. The band's label says CoYB makes musical nods to influences diverse as Roy Orbison, Pixies, The Beach Boys, and Hank Williams (and you thought Arcade Fire on horse tranquilizers was weird!).

CoYB is fronted by Jannis Noya Makrigiannis. Jannis was involved in Copenhagen's underground indie scene for a few years before he took a Justin Vernon-esque trip in 2006 and isolated himself to discover his new sound. Instead of a cabin in Wisconsin, Jannis took refuge on the Greek island of Samos. When he returned to Denmark, Jannis formed CoYB, which is sometimes just Jannis on guitar and a cellist (see YouTube video below), but at other times the CoYB stage contains seven other musicians in addition to Jannis (see Vimeo video below).

"Action/Reaction," the album's upbeat single, is in stark contrast to the rest of the album, which often showcases a melancholy melody and lyrics from "Next Summer": "Next summer I will return, / I'll be back, / I'll break your heart." Sometimes the song titles are enough to depress you ("Hollow Talk" and "Why Must It Always Be This Way" for example). Unlike Phoenix--a band that also doesn't sing in their native tongue--CoYB's straightfoward lyrics don't come off as cheesy: "Where do you go when it all goes down, / You battle ballance, your patterns, / Back to all the thoughts that they killed your youth, / No one deserves this" from the track "Claustrophobia."

Even though the album seems full of downers, it doesn't depress me. The music is gorgeous and the lyrics are cunning. I would've loved it if some of the faster-paced tunes from previous EPs (Burn the Flag) would have made cut, but I'll settle for these ten tracks.

Blurb: This Is for the White in Your Eyes wouldn't make the best background music at a party (see above: Phoenix), but it's a good album and one of 2009's best debuts.
Grade: B

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