Chvrches - Every Open Eye

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:8 Release Date:2015-09-29

Scotland trio Chvrches have returned with their second album, and boy, is it a doozy. Imagine all of the most uplifting, least embarrassing moments of 80s synth-pop and you'll be pretty close to the mark. Unless of course, you thought the uplifting moments were the embarrassing ones.

Seriously though, if you can't appreciate lyrics like, "We will take the best parts of ourselves and make them gold," ('Make Them Gold') you're just a hateful bastard. For everyone else, this album will make you very happy.

Things start off innoucuously enough with the solid 'Never Ending Circle', which leads with a thrusting, pulsing synth before becoming more gentle in the verse and giving the listener the first taste of lead singer Lauren Mayberry's dulcet, earnest singing. It's followed by the first truly excellent track in the set, 'Leave a Trace', another song that starts innocently with minimalist synthwork and beats before working its way around to the powerfully emotional chorus, which creates an interesting back and forth, almost rolling sensation.

One of the other high points is the fantastic 'Clearest Blue', which follows the general pattern of quiet, slow builds the band favors. Things pick up halfway through when the song unleashes a more aggressive synthline that carries it all the way to its conclusion. Another upbeat triumph is 'Empty Threat', which benefits from Mayberry's sweet verses and strong choruses, hard driving synths in both, and loads of fun effects in the latter.

'Bury It' brings the album to its joyous crescendo with its simple melodies and bangin chorus. It feels like you're riding a rainbow across the sky, with rainbows shooting out of your eyes. Also, rainbows are shooting out of your ears. And your mouth. And probably some other places you don't want to think about too much. Truly, how can you deny lyrics like "bury it, bury it, bury it, and rise above"? Even the most cynical might feel their pulse quicken here.

Every Open Eye isn't quite perfect, sadly. One of the frustrating parts is that twice on the set, extremely high energy, vibrant songs are immediately followed by ballads. It's like having your legs kicked out from under you, or someone dousing the flame you've been kindling in your heart. The two songs in question, 'High Enough to Carry You Over' and 'Afterglow', are fine songs, but they just struggle to follow up on the brilliance of what came before. 'Afterglow', appropriately enough named, has a worshipful, churchly feel to it, as if you're being lifted up into the clouds by Mayberry's voice, but it's such a slow ballad compared to 'Bury It' that one can't help but feel a bit disappointed.

Contrast that with 'Down Side of Me', another ballad, following behind the not-quite-as-manic 'Empty Threat'. It's straight out of the most yearning, unfulfilled moment of an 80s teen movie, but feels just right where it's positioned, and not such a letdown. You catch a glimpse of how a more careful layout of the tracklist could have managed the energy levels better and eliminated some of the precarious dropoffs.

Anyone who enjoyed Chvrches first album will love this one as well. It has a few minor flaws, which could just be a case of a handful of amazing songs wrecking the grading curve for the rest of the class, but the best songs on this album are some of the best songs I've heard all year. Essentially, this album feels very life-affirming and optimistic, and anyone needing a little joy in their lives should check it out.

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