Indie-alt-pop darlings and radio regulars CHVRCHES (pronounced ‘churches’) are back following a hugely successful breakout album with their second slice of alternative pop, ‘Every Open Eye’.
The Scottish alt-pop band – consisting of frontwoman Lauren Mayberry, guitarist Iain Cook, and all-round producer Martin Doherty, burst onto the scene in 2012 and 2013 with the epically-titled ‘The Bones of What You Believe’ which spawned the successful single ‘The Mother We Share’, and cemented the band as a rare entity within the music world: a band that are equally happy describing themselves as both an ‘alternative band’ and a ‘pop band’, despite being too generous with their mainstream pop beats for the indie crowd and too left-field for the mainstream pop advocates. Fortunately, both camps look set to be serviced with ‘Every Open Eye’, even as the band hurtles more towards a pop audience with their college-ready dance anthems about heartbreak
The upbeat tracks on the album are infused with more of the disco-pop pulse that elevates their songs to anthemic heights – ‘Clearest Blue’ is inlaid with a stacatto radar beat and a soaring electropop melody, ‘Keep You On My Side’ is a metallic, shimmering ditty, and album highlight ‘Empty Threat’ is an endlessly repeatable, catchy dance jam. CHVRCHES have in some ways honed their sensibilities towards glossy alternative dance-pop with the veins of 80s mood tracks (such as the disappointing ‘High Enough to Carry You Over’) and more modern lo-fi (look to the squelching and bubbling ‘Down Side of Me’).
Not every song on ‘Every Open Eye’ truly makes the cut, or rather shouldn’t have – ‘Playing Dead’ is shrill and unpleasantly so, while the aforementioned ‘High Enough to Carry You Over’ loses Mayberry’s innocent teenage vocals and a lot of the album’s buoyant momentum. Mayberry herself provides a lot of the album’s highs – she turns lead single ‘Leave A Trace’ into swirls of synthy goodness and rescues ‘Make Them Gold’ from being a generic Eighties throwback track into a New Romantics forgotten dream.
Best of all might be the successful merges of light and darkness, both sonically and lyrically, on ‘Every Open Eye’; album opener ‘Never Ending Circles’ is dark and pounding, while the final track ‘Afterglow’ is as warm and mellow as a catnap in the sunshine. Album standout ‘Bury It’ delivers lyrics about the fight to better yourself following a harrowing breakup and stabbing electronic beats that are shockingly ebullient in face of the song’s content. This is a breakup album, open and honest, even though the tracks are designed to be sugary ditties not dirges.
CHVRCHES may still be establishing their sound – after all, this is only their sophomore album – and ‘Every Open Eye’ is certainly an expansion of their original alt-dance sound. Whether or not they’ll choose to stick with their current vein of ‘sad music you can dance to’ remains to be seen, but fans of pop music slightly out of the mainstream will find this an enjoyable LP to soundtrack their personal dancefloors.