Monday, 28 September 2015

Chvrches - Every Open Eye Album Review

The march of Chvrches' is one which is as remarkable as it is obvious, they combine many of the most popular elements of 21st Century music in a package that is almost totally unique. They encompass the online rise (which is pretty much the only way bands become a success nowadays), they have a message bigger than their music (with lead singer Lauren Mayberry's admirable battle against online misogyny being almost as known as many of the bands biggest songs from first album "The Bones of What you Believe") and most importantly they combine guitar music and synthesisers in a way that no one was doing prior to their 2013 album with many trying to now emulate the unique sound (Paramore, Purity Ring and a sizable amount of chart music being obvious examples). It is difficult to argue with them, why not try and emulate music like this? Their infectious techno pop gets the attention of so many people which is why Chvrches are simultaneously an electronic, indie, rock, pop and disco band. Achievements like this are even more awe inspiring due to their humble beginnings. All of the 3 members of Chvrches come from backgrounds in previous bands to varying success and staying with a small label throughout this rise (a rise that is also aided by a staggering amount of live shows played) shows Chvrches to have the talent and ability to make truly great music.

On their return to the studio after almost constant touring their approach seems to be clear, take the great elements from "Bones," magnify them and let them explode. This is certainly the case however for me I can also see a lot of this record being carefully managed to lend itself to more extravagant live displays. There are bigger sing alongs, more danceable breakdowns and chances for the group to show off their finely honed live talents (in particular Doherty's absolutely incredible stage presence, more of that please)

The singles from this record left a bit of a fear in Chvrches fans, they lacked the spark and tenacity which made their first record so fascinating. They are by no means bad songs, they couldn't even be described as bland but expectations were set so high that they seemingly couldn't be matched by any songs on Every Open Eye. (certainly not true and perhaps a poor choice of singles). Never Ending Circles and Leave a Trace may from various interviews have had too much personal significance to the group to face the scrutiny that the rest of the album and they are worse for this.

Chvrches prove themselves greatly however in the mid section of this record. Tracks three through six are an absolute delight and surpass the high points of "The Bones of What You Believe", taking Chvrches to heights seen by very few groups this year.

"Keep You On My Side's" synth riffs envelop the songs driving beats and lyrics in a sound masterfully reminiscent of Daft Punk Discovery era and Mayberry's vocals make for a really strong track.

The shining factor on the albums next track "Make Them Gold" is Mayberry's lyrics. Admittedly I have never considered her lyrics to be a major part of Chvrches success but on this track she really pulls out some poignant, thoughtful lines. "We are made of our longest days" and "If you push yourself I will pull you up" add a level of lyrical depth not seen from Chvrches before and a welcome addition to a strong poppy song.

"Clearest Blue" is certainly the greatest triumph on this album and very possibility the best song created by Chvrches. It builds exquisitely throughout the record and Mayberry sounds at her absolute best. It simultaneously feels complex and very easy to understand. Then comes the intersection right in the middle of the song which is a masterful choice and is justifiably given a good amount of breathing space before it is joined by Mayberry's lyrics. At this point the song to me becomes the epitome of Chvrches as a group with the synths and vocals working in tandem holding one another up to achieve a great sound.

Following that song we are introduced to the only song on this record not voiced by lead singer Lauren Mayberry. The differing vocals of "Bones" clearly being one of the things deemed unnecessary on this record. This is a real shame with particularly Doherty's vocals being pretty stellar. It adds a differing level of dimension and I really am a big fan of his vocal talents. This song "High Enough To Carry You Over" is again really excellent and freshens the sound of the album with the alternate vocalist. This is a tactic it would be good to see from more bands and would also be good to see utilised more by Chvrches especially when the vocal talents of every member are nothing to be sniggered at.

After this point of the record sadly it all gets fairly familiar. Every one of them solid tracks but not offering enough to really carry the record through and keep interest. "Bones" suffered a similar fate with the record middling out before a spectacular conclusion. This is again the case with "Every Open Eye." For a group which offers so much and clearly has a huge amount of new ideas it would be great to see them really go for it and perhaps stay away from safe options which end up verging on fillers to the truly great songs.

The albums closer "Afterglow" is an interesting piece. It is a radically different sound from the group which pays off massively. It is one of the quickest 3 minutes you will ever experience with the enduring synths sounding closer to organs and Mayberry's vocals being truly magnificent. When it ends somewhat abruptly it struggles to do anything but leave the listener clambering for more and to use an overused cliche places the end of this record at a comma rather than a full stop which leaves me very excited for more material from Chvrches which I would not be surprised to see coming very very soon.

All in all this album hits heights higher than on the previous record but it must be said that it does lack a bit of the consistency that came with the previous record.The emphasis is placed a bit too much on their previous successes and by the sounds of the albums last song which introduces a brand new sound to Chvrches' repertoire there is really no need and Mayberry, Cook and Doherty should trust what they see as right no matter what seemed successful the first time out.

The future is certainly bright for Chvrches and hopefully we see them touring and in the studio again soon, they show no signs of letting up and will continue to innovate and lead the focus of pop for at least the next few years to come. I would recommend getting this album as a hard copy. 

Dominic Allan.









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