Review: CHVRCHES – Love is Dead

As Memorial Day weekend arrives and temperatures creep into the 90s in the Midwest, I can’t help but be reminded of days past when this setting would be accompanied by the newest summer soundtracks. It’s a nostalgic sort of feeling that leaves me pining for long drives with windows down and late nights with old friends where the music tells our story.

Love is Dead, the third full-length release from Scottish synth-pop trio CHVRCHES, scratches this itch well, in both expected and unexpected ways.

You can buy Love is Dead on Apple Music.

Calling the music of CHVRCHES carefree, or, more specifically, the sort of tunes you’d play in those happy summer moments, might feel peculiar. The band has excelled at digging deep into pain underneath a blanket of shiny synthesizers, leaving just enough uncertainty to let the listener decide the mood. On this latest effort, the music is glossier and poppier than ever, while Lauren Mayberry’s lyrics forgo ambiguity, leaving no room for misinterpretation.

It’s an interesting choice, and one that will likely leave fans of the band feeling slightly off-center upon first listen. In truth, it might be the most impressive thing the band has done – expanding their own existing gap between sound and substance, making the bridge of that divide all the more impressive.

Album opener “Graffiti” is delightfully buzzy as Mayberry examines the vanishing of a youthful love, singing, “I’ve been waiting for my whole life to grow old / And now we never will”. At first glance, it’s the most straightforward track the band has penned, leaving room for reflection instead of targeting a culprit. But Love is Dead is far from one-dimensional, shifting emotions and wrestling with the very idea of what love means and looks like in a time of political and cultural turbulence.

On “Deliverance”, Mayberry takes a candid look at the harmful side of religion, crafting what might be the band’s most ear-pleasing track to date. On “Graves”, she targets sexism in the music industry, a topic she has spoken brilliantly and powerfully about in the past, singing, “You can look away / While they’re dancing on our graves / But I will stop at nothing”. These moments are so direct, it’s impossible to divorce them from their juxtaposed sonic surroundings, making the music of CHVRCHES just as engaging as ever.

In handing over the production reigns for the first time, the band allowed Steve Mac and Greg Kurstin to guide these moments that will likely transition CHVRCHES from indie darlings to full-blown pop stars. Kurstin’s work with Tegan and Sara seeps through so many tracks on Love is Dead, like blissful closer “Wonderland” and “Heaven/Hell”, which finds Mayberry being pushed to new vocal heights.

With any such transition to new territory, you will undoubtedly find missteps, and Love is Dead shows those growing pains at times. Early single “Miracle” strips the band of their distinctive edge, harnessing the type of beat that drives Imagine Dragons into pop purgatory. There are also repetitive moments that provoke disinterest, making the album feel about 10 minutes too long.

But when Love is Dead is at its best, it provokes the kind of feeling that a summer album should, while still providing plenty to dialogue about. In such a short time, CHVRCHES have toed a fine line between pop bliss and gloom, making them one of the most unique bands to blossom from the 2010’s 80s-inspired synth boom. That more people than ever may now feel compelled to join the conversation should be cause for rejoicing, even if you miss the quirkiness of The Bones of What You Believe or the sharp, ambiguous edges of Every Open Eye.

On “Deliverance”, Mayberry questions, “Is it deliverance / If you can never change?” For those rankled by a band growing their much-needed platform while inviting more participants to the party, this might be a good thought to ponder.


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.

Photo credit: Danny Clinch

Review: CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye


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.


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.

CHVRCHES cover Janelle Monáe’s “Tightrope”


In conjunction with Billboard’s recent Women in Music Event, Scottish synth-pop trio CHVRCHES covered Janelle Monáe’s “Tightrope”. You can check out the video of the performance below:

CHVRCHES recent debut release The Bones of What You Believe is one of the best albums to be released in 2013. If you haven’t heard it yet, give it a listen. You can but the album on iTunes.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Chvrches release “Lies” music video


Chvrches have released the music video for “Lies”, the latest single from The Bones of What You Believe. The video was directed by Sing J. Lee, who also directed the video for “The Mother We Share”.

Check out the video below:

You can buy The Bones of What You Believe at iTunes.