Of all of the exquisite moments of Bishop Briggs debut album, you really don’t have to look far. “River,” a monolith of synth-soul really delivers it. It’s a sound that actually sounds new and that isn’t a clever marketing scheme. Over a repeating vocal loop of “like a river” that hits with the accuracy of a deli slicer, Briggs soars over herself while synths shift and slip behind her. It’s this sort of miasma of talent and technology that tells the story of Church of Scars.
The London-born Briggs, born Sarah Grace McLaughlin, a perilously close sounding name to the ASPCA-guilting Canadian singer, luckily sounds nothing like the name her actual name sounds like. It’s not surprising that while growing up visiting karaoke bars in Tokyo, where her family relocated when she was four, did she get exposed to sounds of The Beatles and Motown singers. Her pinpoint accuracy in hitting the emotional highs and hooks of Motown with the classic pop sensibility of the Beatles lends itself well to songs like the thumping march of “Dream”. Accented by a lilting choir, “I want to tell you what my truth is/but it’s buried down inside”. It sounds sad, but the soaring lead vocal and choir blend to make it sound positively anthemic.
“Wild Horses,” Briggs breakout 2015 single finds a home here, and it honestly fits great amongst the collection of songs. It’s a densely layered bit of synth blurps and blips, acoustic guitar and 808 beats. Despite the mechanic nature, it never sounds overwrought or trying to compensate for Briggs. Her voice commands power and attention – the instruments are simply a conduit.
Church of Scars is full of moments like these, but really by the time the end of the record arrives, “Hi-Low (Hallow)” is simply a showcase to show off some serious vocal fireworks. With simple keys, finger snaps and a gurgling synth, Briggs just belts at full power. It’s a magnificent bit showing an artist that’s not afraid to get a little inventive, not taking the conservative approach when it would be easy with a voice like that. It’s a statement making record, but certainly not the career-defining statement she’s still holding on to. Just wait and listen.
- Brendan Hilliard, Obviate Media
This review was written by Brendan Hilliard, of Obviate Media. Obviate Media is a Chicago-based blog covering music and pop culture. Check them out, here: Obviate Media.