CHVRCHES putting out what they do best – synth-pop – has allowed them to rely on a bunch of hit singles as well as some slightly more experimental deep cuts from their last album, The Bones Of What You Believe. Both ‘Never Ending Circles’ and ‘Leave A Trace’, the initial teasers of Every Open Eye, did not signal a huge change in their sound. But what they did do, they did excellently. ‘Never Ending Circles’ and ‘Leave A Trace’ aim for the charts and keep the tight instrumentation and Lauren Mayberry’s powerful vocals intact. CHVRCHES never said they were trying to be independent or commercial, they can do both easily and without much change in pace to appeal to both. Songs like ‘Keep You On My Side’ hit hard with youthful energy and ‘Never Ending Circles’ suggests pop titans. The effortless appeal of CHVRCHES is what makes them such an interesting band. If you were worried that CHVRCHES could fall into the background of pop and independent music, Every Open Eye is the reassuring sign of a band that’s going to stick around for a while.
A synth-pop act could very easily slip into cold, calculated pop surgery, but instead CHVRCHES have a knack for injecting heart and emotion into their synthetic textures. ‘Clearest Blue’, one of the more emotional and climactic tracks from the album has a surge of electronics and Mayberry’s voice towards the end of the track, followed by gaudy electronics that somehow flourish into a juddering masterpiece. The same stands for ‘Make Them Gold’, which has synths that have an 80s-pop sound to them. However, a lot of the time what roots the band in not falling into self-parody is their singer. Mayberry, simply as the voice of the band, has enough vocal skill and presence to push the mechanic synths into something more human and fragile. Mayberry’s lyrics are anthemic and fist-pumpingly good. Taking ‘Make Them Gold’ again, Mayberry sings ‘We will take the best parts of ourselves and make them gold’, delivering an empowering song about turning even the smallest part of yourself, and others, and turning them into something that is beautiful.
An example of putting that ‘Gun’ or ‘The Mother We Share’ instrumentation together with slightly less confident lyrics is ‘Playing Dead’. Though the chorus is pure bliss with skyscraper synths and harsh edge, Mayberry sings ‘If I give more than enough ground, will you take it?’. Though Every Open Eye shows CHVRCHES moving from anxious lyrics occasionally verging on the attack from The Bones Of What You Believe, Every Open Eye exudes a quiet confidence, possibly brought about by conquering on their first album. Mayberry never directly addresses her fight with internet trolls and the misogyny in the music industry she’s spoken out about, ‘Bury It’ can be read as a track that has ties with ‘rising above’ whatever ‘it’ is. The instrumentation digs deep and stabs out, much like ‘Playing Dead’s sound. Often, Mayberry’s lyrics are mirrored by Iain Cook and Martin Doherty’s skill for translating where Mayberry strikes back or gets introspective.
Where The Bones Of What You Believe had two Doherty-led tracks in ‘Under The Tide’ and ‘You Caught The Light’, Every Open Eye only has Doherty on one track – ‘High Enough To Carry You Over’, which is a shame considering how his tracks were some of the weakest the first time around. This time Doherty’s voice has come along leaps and bounds and it doesn’t sound like the B-Side instrumentation from ‘Under The Tide’ and ‘You Caught The Light’, which made Doherty’s tracks sound like he’d got the short straw. It’s one of the funkiest songs on Every Open Eye, the chorus especially sounding like it was destined for the dancefloor. That’s not to say other tracks don’t sound like they should be danced to. Both ‘Leave A Trace’ or ‘Bury It’ are danceable, but more like an on-your-own-in-your-bedroom-with-headphones-on kind of dancing.
CHVRCHES come back in stellar form. With little leaking out since The Bones… apart from ‘Get Away’ and ‘Dead Air’, CHVRCHES effortlessly slide back into the position that they were in before – making killer synth-pop with plenty of emotion and warmth. They consistently write one good song after another, rarely slipping from hook-heavy pop to heart-bursting climaxes on ‘Clearest Blue’. With synths and drums that don’t apologise for not sounding washed out in muddy production and a clear voice for the band, they also provide a refreshing face of pop music. There is little to complain about, aside from one or two weak tracks which can’t quite compete with the likes of ‘Never Ending Circles’.
Funnel Recommends: Keep You On My Side / Clearest Blue / Bury It