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.

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