Album Review: Chvrches – Every Open Eye

applauds the preservation and ambition of the wildly anticipated follow up

chvrches every open eye album art cover ★★★★☆

With the release of a second record comes the apprehension of losing the very essence that had fans falling in love with an artist first time round. With Glaswegian trio and quirky spellers Chvrches, it’s intricately woven synth melodies and electronic pulses that mirror a heartbeat that made The Bones of What You Believe the enviably successful record it was. Mayberry and co. have a firm grasp of what makes them click and the emotional terrain they occupy, and rightly so; Every Open Eye is more of the same art for the ear.

There is a sense that this record is a response to the bands’ own ambition, with Chvrches sporting armoury and shield in hand. “I am chasing the skyline much more than you ever will” sings Mayberry. She is neither vulnerable nor phased by the criticism that come hand in hand with being the high-profile lead vocalist she is. Opening tracks ‘Never Ending Circles’ and ‘Leave a Trace’ are  dazzling: you feel each riff and every interlude fall gently on your skin like snowdrops. Somehow though, these are the appetizer, making way for ‘Make Them Gold’, the hairs-standing-on-edge, arms-high-in-the-air anthem. I could really envisage the song sound-tracking one of those movie scenes where the lovers run towards each other on the beach.

The punchier ‘Keep You on My Side’ and ‘Empty Threat’ drive along an incessant, drumbeat, and it begins to become apparent that Every Open Eye is an altogether more direct album: the trio address the present with immediacy and jolting eagerness, continuing to explore the staples of their sound. ‘Clearest Blue’ launches sounding more like sad-eyed soul than indie-electronica with its tumbling synth ricochets and melancholy vocals. You feel like you’ve found a trove of small pleasures with a lingering sadness about the whole affair, until, in fairly dramatic fashion, the beat drops at the 2 minutes 13 seconds mark. The anxiety Mayberry croons is confronted and mocked, as is the listener, but Every Open Eye is a fighters’ record, so we can hardly be surprised.

Low points are intermittent and sporadic, but not wholly absent. ‘High Enough to Carry You Over’, sung by Doherty, somehow feels like a lone outlier to an otherwise cohesive record. Meanwhile, the repeating synth which underscores the records’ penultimate song, ‘Bury It’, proves to be just a notch weaker compared to the otherwise melodically complex harmonies crafted by Chvrches, and the track ultimately falls short.

Cook recently revealed that ‘Afterglow’, which provides the albums’ finale, was salvaged from the scrap-heap at the last moment. Speaking to NME, he described how “we were going to bin it, then one day, we just tempo-shifted it, took out the drums, put in a one-track vocal and a one-track synth line, and there it was. It went from the bottom of the bin to album end-point inside about an hour.” Never was a wiser decision made. ‘Afterglow’ is the ballad of decadence that sees Mayberry’s voice laid bare; we’ve waited two years for such ambition to finally be realised, and it’s faultless.

Every Open Eye maintains the nonconformist, rough-around-the-edges semblance we’d expect from Chvrches, yet there’s a stately quality to the record too. Concepts of intimacy and power are merged, and the trio are unapologetic, as they should be. Every Open Eye is exemplary.

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