This article was originally published to The Edge on October 26th 2015
Where the first album from the Scottish electro trio opened with the soaring and gradually building strains of ‘The Mother We Share’, Every Open Eye lunges for the listener in the very first second, with ‘Never-Ending Circles’. It’s an audacious opening to a second album. Not as emotional and majestic as the instant classic of their debut’s opener, the track is imbued with confidence thanks to Lauren Mayberry’s lyrics and delivery, and the sound backs it up. A triumphant song for a breakup, which, when debut single ‘Leave A Trace’ immediately follows, helps frame the rest of the album. CHVRCHES attack their sophomore work with precision and sheer coolness, without losing the variety or the vulnerability of the first album. They’re just coming back with more power.
That power is evident in the final minute and a half of ‘Clearest Blue’, when the song goes from a ballad, building incrementally, to an explosion of electro energy. Comparisons to Depeche Mode’s ‘I Just Can’t Get Enough’ notwithstanding, the riff is instantly catchy. Following Mayberry’s vulnerable lyrics in the first half, pleading for help in anticipation of a panic attack, the release of the final half is astounding. Mayberry may be vulnerable lyrically, but her voice sounds invincible. It’s stronger and more impactful than the soft, almost whisper-like one of before. One could say the misogyny she’s been exposed to online, even as recently as the release of the ‘Leave A Trace’ video, has made her reveal the toughness she restrained before. There’s certainly a strength in the band’s emotional honesty, when they close with ‘Afterglow’ – just her voice, and the high notes of a church organ. It’s a beautiful comedown not just from the banger of ‘Bury It’, which precedes it, but from the entire album. It may even work best on its own for those who expected a more complex finale.
There’s a definite duality to CHVRCHES displayed here too. There was never any doubt that they can do depth of emotion with synth. It’s kind of their forte. But alongside the aforementioned vulnerability, ‘Make Them Gold’ embraces more positivity than the rest of the album, or than was on the first. It’s their most noticeably 80s influenced song, with just enough cheesy motivational speak to be completely compelling, without tipping into parody. ‘Empty Threat’ carries on with an unreserved positivity in similar way, tackling doubts over a relationship with a more modern sound, in tune with ‘Never-Ending Circles’. Whereas, when Martin Doherty takes the vocals (just once this time) on ‘High Enough To Carry You Over’, weirdly reminiscent of Michael Jackson, a more mournful tone takes over.
There’s nothing on Every Open Eye which sounds like a significant departure. It’s the only conceivable disappointment to be had from the phenomenally successfully second album. That CHVRCHES have taken all the best parts of The Bones Of What You Believe and refined and advanced the sound so meticulously, without losing any sense of power, emotion, or complexity, is a miracle.
Every Open Eye is out now via Virgin EMI Records