Choir of Young Believers This Is For the White in Your Eyes

[Ghostly International; 2009]

Styles: grandiose indie pop, folk
Others: Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver

Jannis Noya Makrigiannis is a big deal in his native Denmark. Previous EPs from his Choir of Young Believers helped garner auspicious accolades overseas, including “Talent of the year” and “Hope of the year.” Ghostly International, a label who rarely -- if ever -- releases music so earthy or organic, signed the band for American distribution, hoping to capitalize on (as the awards would have you believe) Denmark’s greatest new musical export with This is for the White in Your Eyes.

A loose collective of rotating musicians, CoYB is known to perform in one of two incarnations: solo with minimal cello/piano accompaniment or with as many players as the stage will allow. Both forms are represented on the album in equal measure. But while This is for the White in Your Eyes at times delivers on the promising press blurbs, the burgeoning group often indulges in melodrama that’s just too artificial to be taken seriously

Things start off rocky, as “Hollow Talk” opens with widescreen sentiment appropriate for the group’s moniker and album title. Somber piano and voice are backed by gently strummed guitar and subtle embellishments before erupting mid-song into a by-the-numbers climax. Following is “Next Summer,” an overblown exercise in bombast replete with a tense string arrangement, and an awkward, clumsy chorus with a lumbering gait and petty, cringe-inducing lyrics (“Next summer/ I will return/ I’ll be back/ I’ll break your heart/…/ You’ll crash and burn”).

When compared to, say, “Action/Reaction,” which is an awkwardly straightforward, radio-friendly pop moment, you begin to cherish the moments of placidity. “Under the Moon” showcases Makrigianis’ plaintive vocals against a beautifully sparse, understated backdrop, demonstrating just how rewarding patience can be. Meanwhile, “Wintertime Love” finds the singer joined again by an orchestra, but this time recalling the despairing feel of the second half of Sigur Rós’ ( ). It’s not very strong lyrically, but it excels in its composure in the same way as “Moon.”

CoYB wisely end the album with the lovely “Yamagata,” whose potency also comes from the absence of towering gestures. In the end, though, Makrigiannis relies too heavily on clichéd histrionic impulses, an act that detracts attention from his melodic aptitude and ushers the group into the additive aesthetics that is so in vogue these days. Sadly, This is for the White in Your Eyes sees a band with great potential whose ambitions too frequently get the best of them.

1. Hollow Talk
2. Next Summer
3. These Rituals of Mine
4. Action/Reaction
5. Under the Moon
6. Wintertime Love
7. She Walks
8. Why Must it Always be This Way
9. Claustrophobia
10. Yamagata

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