Review: CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye

chvrches-new

On “Make Them Gold”, one of many standout tracks on CHVRCHES’ sophomore album Every Open Eye, Lauren Mayberry declares her desire for renewal, singing, “We are made of our longest days / We are falling but not alone / We will take the best parts of ourselves / And make them gold”. This is not an anomaly. From front to back, Every Open Eye is one of the most splendid declarations of hope and restoration to be released this year.

Looking back on the Scottish synthpop trio’s 2013 debut, The Bones of What You Believe, it’s almost difficult to recall that the album was just that – a debut. The band’s feverish following and rapid rise in the indie scene was more than justified. CHVRCHES managed to pack a weighty and emotive wallop in the most unexpected of packaging. When listening to tracks like “Gun”, it’s still hard to know whether to dance or cry.

You can buy Every Open Eye on iTunes.

You can buy Every Open Eye on iTunes.

The Bones of What You Believe excelled not only because of the band’s musical prowess, but their ability to juxtapose heavy subject matter within their airy, electronic dance beats. To misjudge Mayberry’s small stature and chirpy cadence as meek or unguarded was to miss out on a very human story from a very strong soul. With that album, the band may have captured lightning in a bottle, but they made certain to study the science.

On Every Open Eye, CHVRCHES have carved out another stellar release. The formula remains largely the same, but the experience provides us with new and different joys. Bones felt born from frustration, while Every Open Eye seems fueled by determination. The album possesses the same spark as before, but this time around it feels like a celebration.

Ian Cook and Martin Doherty make each track crackle – the songs flow effortlessly upbeat. The opening pulsing synthesizers on “Never Ending Circles” clash against Mayberry’s vocal samples before her opening lines of, “Throw me no more bones / And I will tell you no lies this time”. Her voice rings out against the music, sounding both jubilant and defiant, especially during the opening lines of the track’s soaring chorus: “Here’s to taking what you came for / And here’s to running off the pain”.

Much of Every Open Eye is driven by instantly catchy hooks and melodies. Songs like lead single “Leave a Trace” and “Make Them Gold” lean heavily on their brilliant choruses while others like “Empty Threat” and “Bury It” sound custom made to force you out of your seat and onto the dance floor. The method works, no matter what mood you find yourself in.

Whatever your situation, Mayberry seems resolute to shift the conversation to a productive one, whether she’s speaking outwardly or inwardly. On “Playing Dead”, she shrugs off detractors when she sings, “No more distractions and no more staying still / I am chasing the skyline much more than you ever will”. On the R&B-inspired “Down Side of Me”, she glows with the lines, “I will show you I believe / And hold you up and know that you’re all I see in the light”.

Each moment holds meaning and is communicated through rich production that seems to always match the mood. Rarely do the songs come off hollow, and with the exception of a few oddly placed samples, like those on the bridge of “High Enough to Carry You Over”, each note lands with the necessary amount of force. It’s a testament to the band that an album that moves this quickly never feels redundant.

It feels weird to call Every Open Eye “better” than The Bones of What You Believe – even though it very well may be. CHVRCHES have chiseled away the spare baggage to craft a more well-rounded and complete record. There may not be any ostensibly transcendent moments like “The Mother We Share” or “Recover”, but that’s not a necessity here, and frankly, those moments need not be replicated.

Every Open Eye is a fully formed and delicately crafted album about hope in the aftermath of disappointment and pain. It’s a call to sing confidently with eyes open. It’s a pop record, but it feels like so much more.

4.5/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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