Critical Voices: Bishop Briggs, Church of Scars

April 29, 2018

Provocative and resounding, Bishop Briggs’ Church of Scars comes with refreshing verve in every track, as high-energy, magnetic bass lines amplify Briggs’ powerful vocals. The rising indie artist released her debut album on April 20, after recording her first single three years ago and climbing the charts over time with hit singles such as “River.” While Church of Scars is mainly a collection of previously released singles, its charm comes from Briggs’ compelling sound, which fuses elements of rock with electric pop rhythms. The dark undertone of the album gives it a hard edge and will undoubtedly distinguish it from other recent pop albums.

British singer-songwriter Sarah Grace McLaughlin adopted the stage name “Bishop Briggs” in 2016, inspired by the name of her family’s hometown, Bishopbriggs, Scotland. From a feature in an Acura commercial to a performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and, later, a tour with Coldplay, Briggs has come a long way in just a few years. With the release of Church of Scars, she is at a crucial turning point in her musical career.

Each song on the album has its own unique sound that falls somewhere on the spectrum between mellow electro pop and rock-based trip-pop. Older, spirited tracks like “Wild Horses” and “Hi-Lo (Hallow)” will be familiar to Briggs’ fans, but newer tracks oscillate between the dreamy and more traditionally pop sounding “Lyin’” and the groovy, soulful “Tempt My Trouble.”

“Hallowed Ground,” a new song which features the album name in the lyric—“My heart is a church of scars”—is by far the most captivating song, layering dark emotional sentiments over a reverberating and explosive chorus. While Briggs weaves religious language throughout the album, it is perhaps most prominent in this song, when she unapologetically stands up for the hallowed ground that houses her insecurities and secrets, showing the value she places on authenticity of self.

Despite the musical nuances that make Church of Scars exciting and original, the album’s greatest faults are its lack of cohesion and trite lyrics. The album is more like a sorting box for Briggs’ popular singles than an artfully crafted collection of her work. It comes across as miscellaneous rather than intentional. Likewise, although the music is upbeat and exhilarating, the lyrics often fall short in originality. Their often dark nature contributes to the overall mood, but in general, there is nothing new about repeating poetic nothings to a catchy chorus.

Bishop Briggs’ Church of Scars might not tell an elaborate story, but it’s a perfect album to put on shuffle and blast at full volume. The powerful combination of deep bass, invigorating chords, and Briggs’ dark, robust voice creates a palpable energy that highlights herbold attitude. While Brigg’s continues to find her place in the contemporary music sphere, her strong, daring persona will let the world know that she is not backing down. As she sings in “White Flag,” she would rather die than give up the fight.

Brynn Furey
Brynn is a Contributing Editor for the Voice. She's a huge proponent of pop punk, capybaras, and world peace.

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