Review Summary: Chvrches craft a focused and energetic follow up to their celebrated debut, and perhaps even top it in the process.
When Chvrches crashed the indie-pop party of 2013, a couple of things became apparent. The first was that Lauren Mayberry is absolutely adorable
, and the second is that she’s a damn good musician who deserves nothing but our collective respect. To go along with her law degree and masters in journalism, she has the ideal voice for the group’s upbeat brand of electro-pop…and with only one album under her belt, she has already put it to tremendous use. The Bones of What You Believe
was worth all of the exclamatory praise that it so effortlessly gathered, and the mega-hit ‘The Mother We Share’ blazed a unique mainstream path for a band that had seemingly just come into existence. Even if all of Chvrches’ early success placed them in a how will we ever top this
type of conundrum approaching their sophomore release, it was a damn good problem to have. That’s where Every Open Eye
enters, offering up an even more consistent version of its predecessor while giving us a new batch of unforgettable melodies to bask in for the foreseeable future.
Every Open Eye
is a textbook sophomore record in that it focuses on refining the band’s existing strengths as opposed to the opening of new doors. Although Bones
may hold the edge in categories like eclecticism, it’s quite possible that Every Open Eye
is actually the better of the two albums. There is no overarching peak to the extent of ‘The Mother We Share’, but there is also no gap in the level of quality – which is something that couldn’t necessarily be said about the previous installment. This album feels smoother, sleeker, and more comfortable in its own skin. Not only is it apparent in the record’s ability to flow, but you can also hear it in Mayberry’s voice. Lines like “I’m chasing the sky more than you ever will” exude a sense of poise and unabashed confidence, all of which are signs that Chvrches have truly come into their own – ready, able, and willing to accomplish anything they set their sights upon.
In this case, they focused their vision on an upbeat, always-on-the-rise album filled to the brim with infectious melodies. ‘Keep You On My Side’ is the perfect encapsulation of Every Open Eye
, thriving on a spirited rhythm and dynamic backbeats that dare you not to get up and move. ‘Clearest Blue’ matches energy with beauty, as Mayberry’s earnest pleas to “meet me halfway” sound as sincere as anything she’s ever sung. The way the song eventually explodes into a full synth/dance-pop breakdown is one of the highlights of Chvrches’ young discography, and it proves that the band isn’t afraid to stop straddling genre boundaries and dive head-first into an atmosphere when the occasion calls for it. There’s no shortage of noteworthy moments here, from Mayberry’s impressive display of range control on ‘Leave a Trace’ to the light industrial feel brought forth by the band during the sullen opening minute of ‘Down Side of Me.’ Amidst all of these clear peaks are also a few little moments that make the whole experience feel more personalized. ‘High Enough to Carry You Over’ – for example – is a beautiful gem that features Doherty’s vocals as a welcome change from the status quo. From start to finish, Every Open Eye
presents us with intriguing atmospheres, powerful melodies, and boundless energy.
The drawback to all of this excitement rests squarely within the arena of experimentation because, frankly, there is very little. One might venture to assert that Chvrches’ sound is original by nature because it fuses elements of emo, synth, electronics, and pop in an effortless and widely acclaimed fashion – which isn’t wrong – but those elements all existed prior to the release of Every Open Eye
. Growth certainly occurs here, especially in Lauren Mayberry’s vocals and lyrical skills, but stylistically this is still The Bones of What You Believe 2.0
. Whether or not this matters will vary from listener to listener, but the fact that there’s nothing here that you haven’t already heard in some
capacity is mildly disappointing. Through all of their confident and forthright forward marching, Chvrches don’t take quite enough detours or question themselves nearly enough to qualify this as anything other than a retread – even if it’s an extremely pleasant one. Nitpicking between the virtues of a band finding its sound
or pushing experimental boundaries is always a double edged sword because so rarely are both simultaneously accomplished, and in this case we get one hell of a memorable – however safe
– album. When you consider the overall quality and consistency we get in return, though, it turns out to be a worthwhile tradeoff. It probably couldn’t be summed up better than by Mayberry herself (albeit unintentionally) via her penning of the lines “we feel the same (payin’ back our chances, payin’ back what we take), without restraint / we feel the same within our veins.”
Every Open Eye
proves Chvrches to be a band that hones in on its strengths, develops them, and uses those strengths to consistently release quality material. There was actually a recent interview with Grantland in which Lauren Mayberry coined their sound as “emo with synths” and then proceeded to talk about Jimmy Eat World – one of her influences growing up as a teen. It may be just a couple of quotes from an entire podcast, but they feel incredibly relevant when you look at the path Chvrches has taken. They may not be the most groundbreaking artist of all time, but they recognize the fact that most bands aren’t
– and that it is okay to just be the best you
. Mayberry and company have now released two very successful albums while remaining committed to a sound that they’re intent on refining to perfection…and as long as they continue down that path, there’s little doubt that’s exactly where they’ll arrive.