There’s always a fear in the music world when a new band or artist comes busting out of the gates with a commercially and creatively successful first album that the follow-up will inevitably disappoint.
The dreaded sophomore slump has cursed many bands – The Killers, MGMT and Yeah Yeah Yeahs come to mind – so it’s understandable if there were fans who were skeptical of how Chvrches’ second album, Every Open Eye, would turn out.
Thankfully, those concerned that the Scottish three-piece would rest on their laurels and churn out a carbon copy of their 2013 debut album The Bones of What You Believe can rest easy. Every Open Eye is a beautiful and at times dark synth-pop album that can be called the greatest accomplishment in the band’s limited catalogue.
Never outstaying its welcome, Every Open Eye is a captivating 43-minute, 11-track aural journey that sees the band build upon the sound introduced in their first album and fine-tuning it just enough to make things more interesting. If there was any issue with The Bones of What You Believe, it was that it felt not so much a cohesive album, but rather a collection of greatest hits – which is pretty insane considering it was their first LP. Each track on Every Open Eye flows seamlessly into the next – a fine example would be how the propulsive and triumphant ending to “Make Them Gold” beautifully fades away into the soft shimmering intro of “Clearest Blue.”
Frontwoman Lauren Mayberry seems to have experienced the most growth since their last album. Less timid and more confident, there’s a certain swagger to her vocals that were not present before. Mayberry experiments more with her vocal stylings – she croons sweetly on “Down Side of Me,” and on “Keep You on My Side” her voice smolders with a quiet fury. High in the album’s mix, Mayberry’s vocals are always at the forefront of the band’s sound. Mayberry’s voice is not the only one heard on the album as fellow bandmate Martin Doherty takes over vocal duties on the Kavinksy-inspired track “High Enough to Carry You Over.” A pleasant change of pace, Doherty’s voice on this one song treats listeners to a different dimension of the band’s sound.
Though many may believe Mayberry’s voice is the defining characteristic of Chvrches – they’d be right – that doesn’t mean fellow bandmates Doherty and Iain Cook are slouching. Their musicianship is tighter and leaner than before, and benefits from interesting arrangements. These are musicians who are compelled to explore their sound and aren’t afraid to try new things.
Sonically, Every Open Eye is just more interesting and multi-layered than The Bones of What You Believe. “Clearest Blue” spends the first two-thirds of its runtime at a relatively slow tempo until a quiet, almost unnoticeable crescendo appears, sending the song off on a jubilant jaunt through 80’s synth-pop that recalls Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough.” The infectious R&B groove found on “Leave A Trace” provides an exciting avenue for Mayberry to push her vocals in an exciting direction. Quite simply, this is a song Chvrches would have been unable to craft two years ago.
A confident and complex album, Every Open Eye is the work of an incredible young band which is brave enough to take risks and wise enough to know when not to. It’s hard to see how any band could keep this kind of creative momentum going, but as of right now, there’s no sign that Chvrches will lose steam anytime soon.