When reviewing sophomore albums, there’s a constant urge to compare it to the debut and see how the new songs rank against the old ones. You go into listening to the album with preconceptions about how it will compare to their previous ventures. In the case of Chvrches, The Bones Of What You Believe was one of my favourite albums of 2013, so there were already a few worries that the new songs would not reach the heights of Gun, Science/Visions and The Mother We Share, to name but a few. However, I was very impressed with what I heard on Every Open Eye, as it contains enough material to set it apart from Chvrches’ debut and merit it as a great album in its own right.
There are a few songs on the album that were already put out on YouTube prior to the album’s release. These include songs like Clearest Blue and Leave A Trace, which in some ways act as a bridging gap between the old album and the new. Clearest Blue, especially, contains all the euphoria of the last album, with Lauren Mayberry pleading “Tell me, tell me you need me / Will you meet me more than halfway?” as the instrumentals descend into elasticised synths, forcing you to want to dance. You can almost picture people jumping up and down ecstatically to this in a concert venue. Chvrches have an incredible talent for combining emotive lyrics with an undeniably catchy electro pop, and this album prove that they are no less capable of creating such exquisite songs.
The production on Every Open Eye is excellent, with Lauren Mayberry’s voice clear and ringing over the electronic background, both of which meld impeccably together in harmony. There’s no lapse in quality or lo-fi fuzziness, just a clear, lucid sound throughout, with a subtle hint of 80s pop. Track-wise, there’s a good mix of tempos; there are upbeat, bouncy tracks like Bury It and Empty Threat, but also eloquent, slow ones such as Afterglow, which uses minimalistic instruments to fully emphasise Mayberry’s vocals.
The closing track on the album, Afterglow, is truly a gem of a song, with lyrics laying bare a relationship that Mayberry is prepared to leave, repeating softly “I’ve given up all I can” until the song draws to a mournful close. The end result is a bittersweet, lingering track that leaves you a little bit emotionally raw. The lyric “A lifeline to highs and lows / To seeing the bright side” seems to sum up the mood of the album; a catalogue to the extent of human emotion.
One thing I find interesting about Chvrches, and this is something that they continue to do on Every Open Eye, is that they don’t give all the songs to the lead singer. Martin Doherty leads the vocals on High Enough To Carry You Over and bonus track Follow You, as well as Iain Cook doing occasional backing vocals, which really shows how well each member of the band works together.
Overall, Every Open Eye takes the listener through an emotional maelstrom, from the upbeat and aspirational Make Them Gold, to the punchy Empty Threat, the defiant Leave A Trace and the melancholy Afterglow. At first, parts of it are not as initially alluring as the tracks off The Bones Of What You Believe, and it takes a while to appreciate the emotional intricacy of it. Nevertheless, I’ve refused to listen to anything else in the past week because it’s a fantastic album and one of my favourites of 2015. It’s clear Chvrches haven’t fallen foul to the dreaded “second album syndrome” on this one.