Every Open Eye
When a band releases a huge smash debut that’s a critical and commercial success, I strangely feel sympathy for the band. Why? Well to follow up a debut that is the creative culmination of everything you’ve put together from your childhood until now in a year or two has to be overwhelming, and that’s not to mention fan’s crazy high expectations. It’s sort of a no-win situation for their second record.
Scottish electro-pop trio CHVRCHES—one of many great acts from the Highlands—is currently faced with this impossible situation. The Glasglow trio of Lauren Mayberry (vocals), Iain Cook (keyboardist), Martin Doherty (keyboardist) released Bones of What You Believe exactly two years ago, an album jam-packed with 12-songs of bubblegum electro-pop goodness. Now comes their second album, Every Open Eye, which definitely doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel (these are still catchy, synth-driven pop songs), but it does deliver more undeniably catchy songs, which should be celebrated within itself, if you remove those expectations.
Lead singer Lauren Mayberry has such a pure, pretty voice that it rises nicely above the booming, moody synths and drum machines. The icy synths that echo Mayberry’s warm voice is a masterful touch on “Leave a Trace”, the album’s lead single and best song. Once you hear it once, you won’t be able to shake the chorus. Because Mayberry is more reserved and chooses to be part of the collective rather than the mega popstar, the band hasn’t reached the heights of say Lorde, Ellie Goulding, or Florence and the Machine who do have the upfront female icon, but the catchiness and quality of these songs certainly matches and even surpasses those artists.
“Keep You on my Side” is perhaps the bands most punchy hard-hitting anthem, turning the speed and synths up to 11. “Make Them Gold” similarly keeps the hyperspeed up, speaking to one of the two big trends on Every Open Eye: a more sensory and seismic sound. “Clearest Blue” churns and churns and builds and builds, until its big climax, a synth explosion reminiscent of Depeche Mode’s “I Just Can’t Get Enough”. CHVRCHES certainly combines two different ends of 80’s music: it’s like taking the sonic backdrop of New Order and Depeche Mode and having Cyndi Lauper or Tiffany sing over it.
The latter half of Every Open Eye shows a more sober and smooth side to CHVRCHES. “Down Side of Me” turns down the electronic boom in favor of snapping percussion, allowing Mayberry to show a more vulnerable side, like an R&B confessional. “Afterglow” leaves Mayberry to sing on her own, singing a ballad with the spirit and confidence of a Disney princess. While Mayberry may want to stay part of the collective, she has certainly grown as a singer and performer.
Again, Every Open Eye is no Bones of What You Believe but there is a lot to love here. Let’s stop putting crazy expectations on these new artists and just enjoy the goodness we get.
Can’t Miss: “Leave a Trace”, “Clearest Blue”, “Keep You on my Side”, “Down Side of Me”
Can’t Hit: None