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Choir of Young Believers - This is For the White in Your Eyes

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Artist: Choir of Young Believers

Album: This is For the White in Your Eyes

Label: Ghostly International

Review date: Aug. 17, 2009

Like an ambiguously unsettling new friend, I appreciate Fleet Foxes with deliberate caution. Their debut full-length from last year reaffirms the enduring potential of vulnerable pop music laid down in an empty room with high ceilings. I’m even allured enough not to notice when their lyrics get a little sappy. But the house of cards – and this really hits home live – can collapse if you consider, even momentarily, that Fleet Foxes might be the unshaven man’s Coldplay, sounding unintentionally absurd under the weight of their own grandeur.

So far, it’s been possible to hold the two bands at a psychological arm’s length. However, Choir of Young Believers’ This is For the White in Your Eyes threatens a tenuous peace. It is something of a missing link, and therefore a reminder of the often uncomfortably close proximity, between indie baroque’s earnestness and the pyrotechnic baroque of a lead singer who keeps a “passion coach” in his entourage. Vocally, the talented Jannis Joya Makrigiannis falls on neither side per se, and quite possibly both. Critical comparisons to the usual pre- or post-glam, feminine-male vocalist suspects certainly obtain, and as a crooner Makrigiannis earns them duly. Yet somewhere amid the mountains – mountains! – of choral multitracking, brooding piano stabs and string section excess, the tenderness gets lost.

“Hollow Talk,” the opener, seduces: we hear the tape recorder turning on while the same piano key repeats apace. This intimate detail is lovely against Makrigiannis’ voice. When restrained strings kick in a few measures later, the stage is set for impressive things. But “Hollow Talk,” unfortunately is the only song on the album that holds back enough not to devolve into melodrama. In this, the Choir of Young Believers follows a formula pioneered or at least epitomized by the solo work of the Zombies’ Colin Blunstone, who sang both objectively perfect pieces like “Though You Are Far Away” and strung-out-on-strings trainwrecks that fried pathos by flying too close to the Percy Faith Orchestra, or some other wretched 1950s thing.

If This is For the White in Your Eyes were only gorging itself, that would be that. Regrettably, it can also collaterally damage the listenability of other bands in its orbit through a surfeit of emotional pomp, swelling to the point of bursting and beyond.

By Ben Tausig

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