Album Review: CHVRCHES, Every Open Eye

Nothing quite compares to CHVRCHES. Sure, there are plenty of bands that sound similar, yet there’s something about the way that the trio of Lauren Mayberry, Martin Doherty and Iain Cook make their music that puts them in a league of their own. They’ve once again showed this through the images of heartache, anger and despair of break-ups conjured with such clarity, and accompanied by the driving, compelling musical flair distinct to the group, on their sophomore album Every Open Eye. Filled to the brim with anthems reminiscent of 80’s power ballads, the album manages to rip your heart from your chest yet still leave you dancing it out, as if to help the process – the two extremes mix perfectly. The album shows a shift in style from their first album, The Bones Of What You Believe, with the imminent danger posed by Gun and the bouncy, disorienting sounds in Lungs and Science/Vision replaced with more of the smooth, flowing synth-led melodies and heartfelt lyrics similar to Recover and The Mother We Share.

Songs such as opening track Never Ending Circles and lead single Leave A Trace tell stories of toxic relationships, with the former a mess of cowardice and lies, and the latter a story of a lack of resolve in the aftermath of break-up and needing to get away from someone that “took too much for someone so unkind.” Both are laid over tracks so infectiously catchy that you can’t help but to smile as you dance away and listen, with the compelling, driving progressions in Leave A Trace (which perfectly echo the path of the realisation that resolve isn’t possible), laid over a swelling bass, and glossy synth harmonies with a pinch of grit.
The band move away from the standard verse-chorus-verse structure of most modern pop music, with heavy-hitters like Clearest Blue (a modern-day take on Depeche Mode’s ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’). While there is definitely a distinct lyrical shift between verse and chorus, the music itself does not have such a distinct shift, instead constantly building and developing, leaving you waiting for the crescendo, culminating with lead singer Lauren’s cry of “won’t you meet me more than half way?” calling for reconciliation and compromise throughout the song. Empty Threat starts off right in the middle of the action, the compelling chord progressions through the verses and chords, with swelling, echo-y pads and driving leads. The sudden shift to a minimal progression with soft pads and a focus on vocal stabs and glitchy backing vocals, builds back to a mammoth chorus, calling again for reconciliation, of “taking back an empty threat” and realising that it was too good a relationship to end.

The group show that they are full-working band, with Martin Doherty taking vocal duties on the track High Enough To Carry You Over, more of a slow burner that not only allows Doherty to showcase his smooth, swaggering vocals but allow for more of an alignment between musical and lyrical content; the melancholic late 80’s ballad (vibrato on the lead synth reminiscent of a soundtrack on a VHS movie from the era) lying underneath the cries of “I never would have given you up if you only hadn’t given me up.”

Apart from the above outlier on the album, as much as with Doherty on vocals as with the alignment of musical content to lyrical, the band manage to prove their proficiency with an album full of songs made to make you dance, while at the same time reflecting on a whole range of aspects centred around break-ups and heartache. This duality carries on from the more experimental nature of the music itself on the band’s first album, from playing around with exciting, novel sounds to being able to construct fun, catchy dance music that is equal parts heartfelt and serious.