I first heard Choir of Young Believers several months ago but was never able (or didn't try hard enough) to find much information about the band. Fortunately, they again crossed my path recently with the press surrounding the release of their debut album, This Is For the White In Your Eyes. In actuality, though there are several people included in the production and performance of the music, Choir of Young Believers is the brainchild of one Jannis Joya Makrigiannis - a Danish songwriter and composer that excels at writing beautifully orchestrated indie pop tunes. Under his direction, the band combine stirring string arrangements, pounding drums, and joyous horn accompaniment with Makrigiannis's clear, smooth tenor voice, which results in the creation of some dramatic and intriguing soundscapes on their first LP.
Though the band's title and instrumental palette might suggest otherwise, much of 'White In Your Eyes' is actually quite sparse, with Makrigiannis using the various elements sparingly and separately as to avoid the fully orchestrated sound of the likes of Sufjan Stevens. Tracks like the slowly building "These Rituals of Mine," the lonely "Under the Moon" and the haunting closer "Yamagata" all prefer open space to busy arrangements and crowded choruses. Even highlights like opener "Hollow Talk" and the single "Action/Reaction," while incorporating more elements into the band's sound, leave time for delicate and simple passages where the vocals are the clear centerpiece. The result is a sort of melancholy spirit that pervades the majority of the songs, though even with its deliberate pacing and often sad lyrical content, the record rarely drags or seems heavy-handed. Instead, the stark beauty that Makriaginnis and company create feels more effective and powerful for its restraint.
This Is For the White's In Your Eyes has enough strong material to suggest Makriaginnis has serious talent and a great deal of creative energy, though it's also clear he'll need to improve in order to make a more lasting impression. I'm betting he'll do just that, and in the meantime this is an album that deserves to be experienced and enjoyed, one that you can dive into and spend time with as it appreciates with repeated spins. You can download the song "Action/Reaction" below and/or visit the band's MySpace page to get an introduction.