When Every Open Eye kicks off with “Never Ending Circles,” it sounds as if the song started on its own before you even hit play. It’s proof CHVRCHES know one of the most important rules of writing great pop music: it’s better to sprint than train for a marathon. It’s not to say these songs are really going to pump adrenaline into your veins, but their objective certainly seems to be giving strength and inspiration to the listener.
Since they debuted in 2013, CHVRCHES have grown exponentially in popularity. They’re a band whose synthy pop hooks are of a tenor uniquely their own, even though they coalesce with quite a few current trends on mainstream radio. Every Open Eye goes even further in developing their own voice and, in doing so, comes out with music even catchier than the songs on their excellent debut, The Bones of What You Believe.
A trait carried over from their debut, luckily for us listeners, is the band’s ability to create very “human” music out of largely mechanical sound. This is one of the easiest albums to dance to in 2015, but it’s also one of the easiest to cry during. The subject matter of Lauren Mayberry’s lyrics touches on elements of heartbreak, betrayal and loss relatable to anyone who has lived 15 or more years on this planet. Basically, for a band using the same instruments found on John Hughes’ movie soundtracks, they’re doing a great job of carrying on the ‘80s director’s fun yet melancholy tone as well.
Mayberry, the band’s vocalist, made a lot of indie blog press over the last few years criticizing the rampant misogyny shown toward female singers by people on the Internet. On “Leave A Trace,” she sings, “You talk far too much / For someone so unkind.” That’s not necessarily a reference to the problems she so eloquently addressed, but a record like Every Open Eye is just as valid a critique of those sorts of trolls as her actual comments on the matter. Anyone who wants to reduce female musicians to nothing more than eye candy has to reckon with the fact Mayberry is one of the strongest melody writers out there—not to mention, her voice is one of fragility and strength in equal measure.
There are still a few moments of sonic weakness on here keeping this from being “Album of the Year” material. Martin Doherty takes lead vocal duty on “High Enough to Carry You Over,” and it’s sad his moment in the sun shows up on one of the least compelling tracks here. The song following it, “Empty Threat,” is the one track here where CHVRCHES seem to lose a grip on what makes them unique in a sea of current synth-centered music. It ends up sounding more like a run-of-the-mill EDM song than what the band normally puts out. “Afterglow” is a fine ballad but seems to close things out on an anticlimactic note, especially when “Down Side of Me,” one of the better ballads to come out this year, shows up three songs before. Still, none of these tracks are bad—just not as great as the rest.
Even if the back end of this record isn’t that strong, it boasts one of the most infectious A-sides of recent memory. The songs from opener “Never Ending Circles” to “Clearest Blue” all boast instrumentation and melody lines turned up to 10 on every front. “Keep You On My Side” is how all dance music would sound these days if the world were perfect. “Clearest Blue” is a slow burn, ultimately vamping up to a climax as authentically sentimental as it is a call to rhythmically punch your fist in the air.
CHVRCHES are going to survive being a buzz band. Their take on current pop trends is far more reliant on their own senses of melody than any sort of trend-hopping. Every Open Eye is another album you can throw on at a party to get everyone dancing just as easily as you could pensively listen to it alone in your bedroom. They translate so well because they know what they want to say, and one can only hope they keep saying it for some time.