chvrches – every open eye

every open eye cover
out september 25th via glassnote

chvrches have always made it a point to exceed expectations.  their strong early offerings landed them both consistent critical acclaim and a record deal with a major label subsidiary, and the glaswegian trio embarked on an ostensibly exhausting world tour following the rave reviews of the bones of what you believe.

lauren mayberry sang pristine hooks over equally-pristine synth arrangements, songs swelled to pre-chorus heights before exploding into the mind-boggling refrain itself, and despite this meticulous attention to detail and production, most of bones retained a raw, emotive component not readily available on the surface of most synth-pop albums.  chvrches spent six months writing and recording every open eye earlier this year, an ambitious follow-up that chases the highs of its predecessor.

it’s a sensible practice to emulate a previous success, but chvrches toe the surprisingly fine line between emulation and replication.  “never ending circles” opens forcefully and soon crests to a chorus as titanic as the trio has ever penned, though the track reads as a slight misdirection.  the strength of “leave a trace” tides the album over for a bit longer, but every open eye eventually wavers dangerously close to mediocrity, a territory previously foreign to chvrches.

nevermind that “make them gold” has a title that seems to exclusively pander to this generation’s optimistic hashtag users; the song’s delivery is flawed, its vocal pacing sophomoric, and the refrain’s melodic contour – arguably the most crucial component of a chvrches song – is painful, a glaring misstep that somehow survived the cutting-room floor.  “make them gold” joins “empty threat” as the chief byproducts of a recording period that was a bit rushed and ultimately suffered from bouts of tunnel vision.  the anthems that dotted bones were almost accidental in magnitude, and chvrches certainly don’t bat a thousand when trying to capitalize on their arena-caliber potential this time around.

it’s a shame that those blemishes are placed at very strategically poor points on the album, because every open eye does host some of chvrches’ finest work to date.  “clearest blue” is the sprawling centerpiece that bones decidedly lacked, and martin doherty’s lead vocal on “high enough to carry you over” makes it one of the album’s most compelling components.  the final third of every open eye is more indicative of the pop anthems chvrches are now capable of constructing, and both “playing dead” and “bury it” tweak the trio’s tried and true songwriting blueprint to refreshing results.

by the time “afterglow” hits, chvrches have completed another victory lap, albeit one less smooth than previously experienced.  every open eye avoids the sophomore slump and provides chvrches with sufficient material for an even more massive tour, but it also suggests that the band should tread lightly and spend considerably more time on their subsequent output.  luck won’t always be on their side.

most anticipated albums of fall 2015

braun turntable 2the home stretch of each year always provides a plethora of new albums vying for contention in year-end best-of reviews.  invariably, at least one heavy-hitter holds onto a project until the quarter is almost over before unleashing it and messing with the internet’s ballots by proxy (here’s looking at you, kanye and frank).  the full list for this fall is exhausting; google searches and metacritic are good tools to keep yourself in the know, but we’ve also compiled a handful of albums we’re especially itching to dig into.  read on for more detailed explanations.

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mind out wandering coverastronauts, etc. – mind out wandering
september 18th (hit city u.s.a.)

anthony ferraro has seen his exploratory outlet into the realm of pop music grow from a solo project to a full-band endeavor.  already armed with a quartet of impressive singles, astronauts, etc. should offer up a strong and nuanced debut full-length with mind out wandering.

every open eye coverchvrches – every open eye
september 25th (virgin/glassnote)

chvrches wrote and recorded their sophomore album over the span of six months, a quarter of the amount of time they spent touring in support of their massive debut the bones of what you believe.  still, the glaswegian trio’s penchant for huge melodies and their uncanny ability to weave downtrodden aspects of indie rock into massive stadium-ready anthems (see “leave a trace”) argues that every open eye will likely be a well-deserved victory lap.

new bermuda coverdeafheaven – new bermuda
october 2nd (anti)

remember that deafheaven is a substantially different band than the one that churned out sunbather two years ago.  the sense of urgency derived from a dire economic situation that permeated the band’s critically-acclaimed breakthrough album may be subdued, but this is a creative force bent on melding genre confines into a fluid product.  at the very least, new bermuda will not fall short on intrigue.

are you alone? covermajical cloudz – are you alone?
october 16th (matador)

speaking of critically-acclaimed albums from 2013, the duo responsible for our favorite record that year are returning with a new full-length in october.  are you alone? comes on the heels of an arduous touring regimen for majical cloudz, including a support slot for lorde that necessitated a re-write of most of the new material the band had fleshed out.  “silver car crash” finds devon welsh singing as directly as ever, and his easy command of a higher register suggests a newfound confidence; subsequent singles that emerge this month and next should paint a clearer picture of the album’s direction.

foxing dealer coverfoxing – dealer
october 30th (triple crown)

st. louis quintet foxing emerged from the recent emo resurgence as a clear frontrunner that could endure the waning fad and continue to contribute meaningful material.  their breakthrough the albatross juxtaposed moments of agitation with sustained introspective passages, a formula that will prove beneficial for a young band given ample time to hone their craft.

– other notable releases –

lana del rey – honeymoon (september 18th)
kurt vile – b’lieve i’m going down (september 25th)
milo – so the flies don’t come (september 25th)
youth lagoon – savage hills ballroom (september 25th)
chad valley – entirely new blue (october 2nd)
alex g – beach music (october 9th)
saintseneca – such things (october 9th)
beach house – thank your lucky stars (october 16th)
pure bathing culture – pray for rain (october 23rd)
gems – kill the one you love (october 30th)
the japanese house – clean (november 6th)
goldlink – and after that we didn’t talk (november 13th)
james blake – radio silence (tba)

most anticipated albums of 2015

2014 is all but in the books, and so we’re naturally turning our intention towards 2015 and all of the music it will potentially bring.  everyone is on the edge of their seats for the new kanye west album, and modest mouse’s first record in eight years should be interesting, but here are ten other acts with music coming out next year that we can’t wait to digest.  read on.

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chvrches – after touring relentlessly for nearly two years behind their excellent debut the bones of what you believe, glaswegian trio chvrches has returned to the drawing board to work on a follow-up.  no word on when that album will show up, but new songs that showed up on the re-worked drive soundtrack and the lorde-curated hunger games: mockingjay – part 1 may be indications of what’s to come.

daughterdaughter – everything that daughter has touched has turned to gold, including a couple of remixes and re-workings of songs off of if you leave with a ten-piece chamber orchestra in tow.  like chvrches, daughter just finished up a pretty extensive tour in support of their excellent debut, and the trio is holed up somewhere overseas working on a follow-up.

deafheaven – “from the kettle onto the coil” was the only offering from deafheaven in 2014, and the song yields absolutely no indication of what their impending new album will sound like.  regardless of the final product, it will be interesting to see what the genre-defying san francisco outfit comes up with on their third try.

elvis depressedly – we were supposed to hear new alhambra before this year was over, but mat cothran and company chose to sign with run for cover records to allow for wider dissemination of the record, among other things.  elvis depressedly’s much-anticipated new album will be out sometime in the spring of 2015, and we have the excellent “no more sad songs (n.m.s.s.)” to tide us over for the time being.

frank ocean – frank ocean’s follow-up to 2012’s channel orange was purported to be done this past april, then it was due out sometime this past summer; now, who knows.  ocean did release a snippet of a new song called “memrise” last month, enough to set the internet on fire, but there’s still no concrete release date for his new album.  then again, dropping something completely unannounced seems right up his alley.

james blake – james blake’s third album is reportedly seventy percent complete and should see a release sometime in the spring of 2015.  blake has been quietly building anticipation, teasing the prospect of collaborations with justin vernon and kanye west along with releasing a short ep entitled 200 press.  expect a single sometime early next year to dictate the aesthetic of the impending album.

kendrick lamar – kendrick delivered some promising material in 2014 but failed to provide what everyone wanted: the follow-up to good kid, m.a.a.d city.  his new single, “i,” seemed to indicate a departure from the grim undertones of his masterful 2012 concept album, but the untitled track lamar revealed on the colbert report swiftly contradicted that notion and leaves the tone of his new record completely up in the air.  but who knows when that will surface.

panda bear –  noah lennox is releasing his fifth solo album, panda bear meets the grim reaper, on january 13th via his new home, domino records.  the world always seems game for a new panda bear record, and it’s been about four years since lennox has delivered.  armed with the strong singles “mr. noah” and “boys latin,” grim reaper is poised to be one of the early standouts of 2015.

teen dazeteen daze – if all goes to plan, we’ll be able to hear not one but two new projects from teen daze in 2015.  he recorded the follow-up to his 2013 magnum opus glacier in san francisco this fall, and he’s also slated to release a placeholder ep entitled a world away for his european tour this winter.

their/they’re/there – this chicago trio is kind of like a birthday cake: the individual ingredients might not be significantly appetizing, but the sum of all its parts is quite desirable.  their/they’re/there released a pair of eps in 2013 that hinged largely on the impeccable guitar work of matthew frank, and rumor has it that they’ll offer forth a full-length sometime next year.

best of 2013: albums

good things come to those that wait, right?  does this phrase even really apply to this situation?  probably not.  it may be a bit delayed, but my albums of the year list is finally done.  i’ve written long-form essays on my favorite fifteen records of 2013 over at playground misnomer; you should definitely head over there and check it out, along with lists from the other contributors to that site.  if you don’t feel like reading, below are some quick and simple pictures of my top five albums of 2013.  enjoy.

5. milo – cavalcade

chvrches4. chvrches – the bones of what you believe

daughter if you leave3. daughter – if you leave

2. caroline smith – half about being a woman

majical cloudz impersonator.jpg1. majical cloudz – impersonator

best of 2013: songs

i’m upping the ante and treating you to my ten favorite songs of 2013, as opposed to last year’s five.  my choices don’t necessarily reflect contenders for album of the year, but don’t be surprised if some of the same names show up over the next couple of weeks.

10. oostende – keep shelly in athens: “oostende” was my first true glimpse at sarah p.’s vocal personality, which stretches from hesitant to confident within the duration of a verse and a chorus.  the synth pads are brooding throughout, but the lead line that kicks in three quarters of the way through the song routinely gets stuck in my head.  easily the best track off of the duo’s debut album at home, the power of “oostende” is only bolstered by an incredibly heart-wrenching music video.

 

9. collapse – vancouver sleep clinic: the second of just two tracks released by vancouver sleep clinic this year, “collapse” easily proves what tim bettinson is capable of doing with his voice.  retaining an incomprehensible aesthetic akin to bon iver, “collapse” evokes a frigid winter landscape that has already become relatable.  the production behind the vocals is also impressive, molding some james blake drum pads with soft-rock, folky guitars.  both vancouver sleep clinic songs have been firmly distinguishable so far, but “collapse” flexes the ensemble’s potential the most.

 

8. graceless – the national: trouble will find me still hasn’t fully settled in yet.  while the cohesive aspect of the album may be lacking, i know that “graceless” is probably one of the best songs the national have ever written.  there’s that underlying post-punk tone that harkens earlier tracks off of alligator and boxer, along with a truly anthemic final chorus.  the national is a band that ages well, and a sustained break from their earlier influences helped to add depth to that sound.

 

7. diamond mine – pillar point: i love a good mystery.  when i found pillar point through polyvinyl’s twitter page, the sheer absence of a biography or any sort of personal identity attached to the project made me appreciate the music that much more.  “diamond mine” is a chillwave standout that mixes a multitude of pulses, but that lead synth line is always an earworm, whether syncopated or straight in time.  the lyrics are a bit melancholy, juxtaposing the sunny, up-beat accompaniment, but that only adds to the overall sophistication of the songwriting here.

 

6. tennis court – lorde: i could talk about “royals,” but everyone talks about “royals.”  lorde stands for something that goes against the mainstream materialistic values and idolization of glamorous pop stars, but she’s also still a kid, barely out of high school and three years away from turning twenty.  that doesn’t detract from the fact that she’s very self-aware and intelligent; i think “tennis court” showcases this the best.  its lyrics are less about dissociating from material goods and more about defying social trends and chasing perfection.  “tennis court” is fairly autobiographical, highlighting lorde’s naivete in the music industry, but her skeptic tone suggests that she won’t buy into its extravagancies.  i guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

 

5. savage – majical cloudz: there’s a lot to be said about majical cloudz and their fantastic, under-the-radar year.  devon welsh’s voice is routinely haunting, pairing well with the minimalist compositions that define the aesthetic of the duo.  impersonator was an admirable record, but i was drawn to “savage,” a bonus track released just last month, more quickly than any song found on the album.  the ostinato keyboard part sets the tone for welsh’s lyrics, a fairly direct romantic narrative.  the first time i heard him break from his declamatory phrasing to croon “high on lsd with you,” i was sold, and i’ve felt the same tingling sensation every listen since.

 

4. summer skin – teen girl scientist monthly: someone likened teen girl scientist monthly to the pains of being pure at heart on steroids, a comparison that works especially well for “summer skin,” the opening track on their newest album modern dances.  the opening guitar line sells the song as an instant earworm of powerpop, but the gradual additions of keyboard textures and gang vocals find the brooklyn ensemble as an amalgamation of the answering machine and arcade fire.  “summer skin” is the kind of song you would wait around for hours to hear on the radio, but thankfully, you don’t have to do that.

 

3. comrade – volcano choir: “byegone” garnered understandable praise for volcano choir, with its anthemic folk rock feel reminiscent of bon iver’s sophomore album.  but “comrade” is the essence of what volcano choir has become: the marriage of collections of colonies of bees’ post-rock leanings and justin vernon’s vocal tendencies.  responsible solely for the lyrics and vocals on repave, vernon was in his element, generously modifying his voice to embellish the experimental aesthetic of the band.  the autotuned coda at the end of “comrade” makes the song and is gloriously powerful live; watch the video below for a frame of reference.

 

2. lungs – chvrches: any song off of the bones of what you believe could contend for a spot on this list.  chvrches was one of the most impressionable bands of 2013, seamlessly blending pop hooks with indie sensibility and dance floor beats.  “lungs” is buried deep within the album and is a syncopated gem; lauren mayberry’s voice is subtly doubled with a vocoder, adding a harsh undertone to an otherwise crystal clear timbre, but it’s the quarter note-triplet pattern fed through a filthy bass synthesizer that defines this song.  friends of mine who almost exclusively listen to electronic dance music appreciate chvrches due to this song, further showcasing the band’s accessibility across a wide variety of genres.  “lungs” is on par with every single released off of the bones of what you believe, and is probably better than some of them.

 

1. boat rich – dads: it didn’t take long before “boat rich” was my most-played song of 2013.  clocking in at under three minutes helps, but the fact is that the guitar work is too catchy to not listen to on repeat.  dads started to receive some national attention this year with the resurgence of emo, but the new jersey duo are just as likely to throw a quick meter change into a song as they are to wear their hearts on their sleeves.  the chorus of “boat rich” is anthemic in nature and each repetition builds, culminating in a climax following a triplet-based interlude.  check out dads’ pretty good ep if you haven’t already, and keep your eye out for more material in 2014.  i know i will.

 

chvrches – the bones of what you believe

chvrches are a shining example of how the internet can fuel a band’s success in all the right ways.  since their formation just a couple of years ago, the glasgow trio have released a rapid-fire stream of singles and eps, all leading towards their debut full-length album, the bones of what you believe.  using powerful, hook-laden singles like “recover” and “the mother we share” as reference points – but not pillar points – across the album, chvrches have created a body of work that increases the relevancy of 1980s-influenced synth-pop in today’s indie realm.

the a-side of the bones of what you believe is positively loaded with spectacular songs; “the mother we share” might get much-deserved attention solely due to the amount of time it’s been circulating blogs, but that’s just the starting point.  both “gun” and “lies” are stronger compositionally, and the mid-tempo feel of the latter proves that chvrches aren’t just committed to churning out upbeat pop anthems.  lauren mayberry’s voice is crystal clear in timbre and purely innocent in nature, but her handoffs to iain cook make the band that much more impressive; the programmer’s lead vocal stints on “under the tide” and “you caught the light” come on understated tracks that somehow feel like appropriate ways to end each side of the album.

one of the dangers in stacking an a-side is that the flip side of a record will inevitably be weaker.  while chvrches follow a somewhat formulaic approach to the b-side of the bones of what you believe, the songs still manage to hold their own.  again building off the familiarity of “recover,” the trio ventures through the straight-ahead “night sky” before landing on “science/visions,” the only track on the album that takes a couple of listens to get on board with.  chvrches’ most intriguing song is found deep into the album and again sees the band taking advantage of a more laid-back feel; “lungs” relies fully on the combination of syncopation and extremely gritty bass sounds to groove, which works really well.

although somewhat derivative and predictable, chvrches’ debut effort is a fun listen with positive attributes at nearly every turn.  fans of chairlift’s something will feel right at home here, but this is an album everyone should familiarize themselves with; chvrches will be around for quite awhile.

8.2/10