Review Summary: COYB's debut LP is gorgeous in its music, but lacking in its lyrical content.
I've never quite understood how the word "big" could be applied to music. It doesn't seem to fit in with the typical vocabulary used to described sound, but for some albums it's the only way to capture it in a single word. It immediately came to mind when I first listened to Choir Of Young Believers' grandiose record, This Is for the White In Your Eyes
. The ever-shifting group is captained by Jannis Noya Makrigiannis, who uses his group of supporting musicians to make gorgeous, immense soundscapes. I say ever-shifting because throughout the record only one aspect stays the same, and that's Jannis. The instrumentation is never the same for two songs with the cast moving in and out with graceful ease. You could remove the lyrics (which aren't too spectacular in the first place) and simply enjoy the fantastic musicianship, which of course is a strike against the lyricism itself. In hind-sight, it's really the "choir" in COYB that makes This Is for the White In Your Eyes
come together as a grand achievement of a debut LP and not so much the lyrics that Jannis conceives.
It will take only one full listen to understand what I'm incoherently trying to say about this album. Even after several listens, I haven't fully digested this and I think that's what appeals to me most. There's so much that's offered here that it would take many, many listens in order to hear every little instrument, every tiny sound, and every hardly audible supporting singer in the background. The way this is structured could easily be compared to Radiohead, and that would be absolutely accurate. The vocals, the music, and even the lyrics at some times have a very Radiohead vibe to them while still staying mostly unique.
The first taste of the aforementioned comes from the opening track, Hollow Talk
, which is among the best tracks on the record. It begins with some simple piano playing, but eventually expands into this huge, powerhouse of a song. The crescendo is one of the top points of the album and really displays the way that Jannis is able to manipulate the music to make it feel enormous. In this song alone there is the ever-present piano, a cello, an acoustic guitar, violins, and drums. So throughout the course of a single song, close to an entire orchestra is piece-by-piece mixed in with Jannis' vocals. The sheer magnitude of that is astounding in itself, but this song also holds some of the stronger lyrics of the record, making it one of the best openings to a record I've heard.
From there the pace of the record never really catches on, which becomes one of the overall cons, but is not entirely negative. Each song has a unique vibe to it, which at time can kill the flow, but is still a musical aspect to be admired. Ambition is a big thing for this group and it's obvious throughout the course of the album that they strive for excellence and stray away from other bands, however much they may resemble a few. While I'm talking about the cons I may as well bring up the other thing that keeps this album from shining, the lyrical slope that begins with Hollow Talk
. From there on, the lyrics remain good for a few songs, but by the end of the album they become forgettable and really unnoticeable among the music. There's not a real theme established, nor is there a very coherent flow to what the lyrics are trying to say, they're kind of just there for Jannis' vocals to be present throughout the record.
On the subject of Jannis' singing, it resembles, much like the rest of the record, Radiohead's vocalist Thom Yorke. Whether these similarities were purposeful or if that style is just popular in English music, it will most likely be noted by anyone who is familiar with Radiohead's music. The singing is great for what it's doing, which is just adding to the atmosphere that the music is creating. Though as I mentioned before, what
he's singing never really matters in the long run. It's all about the music on this record, which can leave people a little sour depending on how they enjoy their music.
In the end you have to take This is for The White In Your Eyes
for what it is to truly appreciate it. While the lyrics may be inconsistent throughout the record, the music more than makes up for it, and for a debut LP, this is damn good. It doesn't surprise me in the least bit that it garnered as much attention as it did in its original country. The sheer size of the album is enough to make you fall into it head first and come out feeling refreshed with modern music. It doesn't blow minds, but it does make you feel something, and that's what is essential in the end.