CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye: Review

The Bones of What You Believe is comfortably one of my favourite albums of all-time.  Not many other records capture that singular sense of a band, one of drama and one of musical enchantment in the way that Bones did.

CHVRCHES sophomore album Every Open Eye shows that the spirit of 80s is still alive and well in the 21st century and that they are a dynamic band that can do something different and still pull it off.  It’s not Bones, but in many ways that’s a good thing.

What strikes the most about this record is how much more poppy and dancey it is.  It’s designed so that there’s some killer tracks on it that will light up a concert and make the crowd go wild.  My favourite song on the album, “Clearest Blue”, builds until it explodes into a synthy glory that’s so reminiscent of Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough” you’ll do a double take.  While it’s definitely a departure from their more atmospheric and restrained take on electropop in album one, I find this a much more confident attempt at making music the band wants to listen to.  Songs like “Keep You on My Side” and “Empty Threat” are far more energetic than most of the tunes found on CHVRCHES’ debut, and this change of pace is something I really like and think fits them well.  This is the realisation of the 80s sound reborn that the first album strived for.

But even with this new approach there are definitely a lot of call-backs to their old, more melancholic sound.  “Down Side of Me” takes a really low key approach that knocks you back after the unrelenting optimism before that, but has an amazing atmosphere driven by lead singer Lauren Mayberry’s fantastic vocals.  The closer “Afterglow” is similarly jarring, with a slowly building and very emotionally strong feeling to it that never gives in to the yearning to break into something electronic.  It’s hard not to be moved when the final line of the album is the simple line “I’ve given up all I can”.

Every Open Eye doesn’t have the same rustic feel to it, that sort of home-made with rough edges style to the production, but that’s okay; the charm of Bones has been made up for with cleaner and more emphatic sounds that gives the songs a louder and more anthemic feel overall.  Lead single “Leave a Trace” is a powerful message of defiance and “Playing Dead” later on carries the same darkness CHVRCHES are known for along with a stronger sound.  On the flip side, while the song-writing has improved on the whole, something about the quirky lyrics of the first album just seem more unique and more poignant – but I’m sure that they might grow on me as I listen to these new tracks more.

The vocals are much stronger on this album as well, with Mayberry’s voice being louder and more powerful which works better on the songs featured here.  On Bones the soft touch worked, but that wouldn’t quite do on this album – but she’s changed and changed for the better.  Martin Doherty’s turn in mid-album tune “High Enough to Carry You Over” is also much more assured, with a more distinct voice that carries the song much better and adds a funky change halfway through the record.

This is a different album and it adds something to the band’s catalogue rather than simply re-doing or re-working it.  That’s exactly what a good second album should do, and I’m delighted they’ve felt the same.  While Bones might have felt like the melancholy dealing with a break-up phase, Every Open Eye is where you’ve moved on and are happy with it.  Both stages are equally important, equally powerful and equally interesting – and that’s the feeling that the overall CHVRCHES discography now represents.

CHVRCHES have knocked it out of the park once again and I’m delighted to say their second album is exceptional.  Once again they’re pioneering a new wave of the 80s, and making it sound better than it did first time round.

You can listen to Every Open Eye in full below via Spotify or buy it on iTunes.

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