With a smoother, fine-tuned sound, Scottish synth-poppers CHVRCHES present a fleshed out, delicate collection of tracks in their sophomore effort, Every Open Eye. Right from the get-go, frontwoman Lauren Mayberry shows off her familiar but now more assertive vocals. In fact, the whole group feels more confident and bold than before. Album opener, ‘Never Ending Circles’ immediately puts a light on the records ongoing subject matter – relationships, breaking up and, most importantly, moving on.
Pre-release singles ‘Leave A Trace’ and ‘Clearest Blue’ are the prominent driving forces that pushes the album forward. The former, described as a “middle finger mic-drop” by Mayberry feels slightly more aggressive, with punchy, layered synths and smashing drumbeats. The latter, however, is optimistic in tone, as a loud cry out from Mayberry (“Will you meet me more than halfway?”) explodes into a bright, pulsating and bouncy arrangement of synths. ‘Clearest Blue’ concludes into a beautiful outro, where all three members of CHVRCHES work together to create a unique, harmonic experience.
To break up the album, Martin Doherty relieves Mayberry from her vocal duties at the album’s halfway point, ‘High Enough to Carry You Over’; one of the album’s standouts. In this stripped back tune, Doherty performs with the same energy, depth and passion as Mayberry so frequently does, the passion that so often makes CHVRCHES’ music shine. Sporting a simple, catchy vocal melody with groovy bass undertones, ‘High Enough’ sounds as if it could be right off Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. It’s groovy and laid back, yet strikingly personal; its lyrical content paints a more melancholy and mellow picture, continuing with the album’s theme of relationships and moving on. (“I never would’ve given you up, if you only hadn’t given me up.”)
Every Open Eye seems to draw heavily from ‘80s synth-pop; ‘Make Them Gold,’ is another fist-pumper about, “breathing and letting go”, while ‘Empty Threat,’ unapologetically channels bubble-gum pop artists, upbeat in sound and glowing vocals. It’s hard to deny how easily ‘Empty Threat’ could be mistaken for a Taylor Swift song. Despite this, through ‘Empty Threat’ we’re reminded that Every Open Eye isn’t about breaking up. It’s about moving on. “I was better off when I was on your side”, this sentiment is echoed on the punchy, but similarly poppy ‘Bury It’, featuring jagged synth-beats and vocals where Mayberry tries to “bury it and rise above”. Here, Mayberry’s vocals shift more toward the charismatic and grungy mode of Paramore’s Hayley Williams, although this is less prominent as Doherty’s backing vocals come into play.
Closing up the album is ‘Afterglow’, a raw finisher where Mayberry sings beautifully over light, euphonic synths. Softly spoken, the album closes with, “I’ve given up all I’ve got/I’ve given up all I can”, a profound reminder of the reality of many ended relationships.
Every Open Eye brilliantly explores many ideas throughout its run and shines nicely throughout. The tracks are more traditionally structured and somewhat less experimental than those of predecessor, The Bones of What You Believe; this album is sonically tighter. It seems fitting, however, as CHVRCHES have not only grown as a band, but evidently as people since Bones. With this in mind, Every Open Eye seems to be a natural succession to what’s come before.
Every Open Eye is available now via Universal Music.