CHVRCHES: Every Open Eye

August Napolitano, A&E Editor

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RATING: 8/10

HIGHLIGHTS: Leave A Trace, Keep You On My Side, Make Them Gold, Playing Dead

Since humans have invented the concept of singing words over music, we have always had the “love song.” As soon as that came around, we had the “love gone wrong song”. The two go hand-in-hand, and sure, that is kind of sad, but such is life.

Nearly every single song on Every Open Eye, the sophomore album from CHVRCHES is about a failed relationship. In opener “Never Ending Circles,” Lauren Mayberry taunts “here’s to taking what you came for/and here’s to running off the pain./Here’s to just another no-man/if you want another, say you need another.” When bandmate Martin Doherty takes the mic in “High Enough to Carry You Over,” he laments that he never would’ve given up his lover if they hadn’t given him up first. But not every breakup song has to be sorrowful. “Leave A Trace” is an awe-inspiring tale of Mayberry’s self-awareness and empowerment. She wasn’t innocent by any means, managing to “get away with everything” she wanted to. Yet she knows her partner was just as manipulative, and in the chorus she loudly refuses to remain in the relationship. “I know/I need/to feel/released,” she pants.

Oh, and that’s a huge point. Mayberry and Doherty have basically mastered their emotive delivery on this album. Of course, it was never that hard to find on CHVRCHES’ 2013 debut, The Bones of What You Believe, (“you stuck in the knife that you held at my back!) But consider the breakdown on Every Open Eye’s fifth track, “Clearest Blue,” where Mayberry practically screams the lyrics at the top of her lungs before a massive wash of synthesizer drops over her. This is not just effectively the album’s climatic moment, but a testament to CHVRCHES’ key ability – their knack for making incredible pop music. Just try to listen to the chorus of “Keep You On My Side,” with its thumping beat and Mayberry’s flowing vocals, and not turn your volume up, probably doing a dance of sorts and singing along. It’s basically impossible.

Speaking of pump-up songs, we also have “Make Them Gold,” which is packaged with this gaudy 80s gleam. Coming from literally anybody else, it may sound cheesy and insincere, but paired with some of the group’s most shrill and heartfelt vocals to date, the track is truly uplifting. “We are falling but not alone,” the chorus says. “We will take the best parts of ourselves and make them gold.”

The aforementioned “High Enough to Carry You Over” is Doherty’s only vocal appearance on the album, yet it marks his best one so far. In Bones, Doherty’s two shots at the mic weren’t awful, but compared to Mayberry, his vocals seemed rather dull and uninspired. Here, on the other hand, his game has been stepped up immensely, straining his voice to get as much effect out of it as he can, and making sure to stay loud and clear over the instrumental. He sounds every bit as desperate and full of regret as the lyrics suggest. But Mayberry’s return on the definitely single worthy “Empty Threat” is a triumphant one before the energy is turned down a bit with the mellow “Down Side of Me.” Featuring a solemn refrain of “you’re not the same,” the track is stripped down to CHVRCHES at their bare minimum during the breakdown, consisting primarily of vocals upon vocals. It serves as a great cool-down before “Playing Dead,” where Mayberry again proves she can stand her own ground. “You can tell me to move and I won’t go.” The chorus alone makes this a clear standout on the album.

The second-to-last song, “Bury It,” continues the underlying theme of redemption and moving on from a bad relationship, particularly, a “ruthless” partner that Mayberry is sick of keeping silent about. She vows to prove herself right about them, and to “rise above” the situation. Closer “Afterglow” is perhaps the biggest slow burner the band has done to date, and though it does not rely on their usual danceable pop formula, it goes to show that CHVRCHES can do more than one thing right. A song that apparently left the band “emotional” after finishing recording, it’s a reminder that Mayberry, Doherty, and Iain Cooke have been in music for a long time before the Internet catapulted them into the public eye, before they were a VH1 “You Oughta Know” artist with their music featured in TV shows and Grand Theft Auto V, for whatever reason. They know just what they’re doing, and they’re only getting better at it. Don’t get me wrong, The Bones of What You Believe was great. “The Mother We Share,” “Lies,” and “Recover” are favorites that I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of. But with Every Open Eye, CHVRCHES offers a much more consistent album, with nearly every track leaving you hooked rather than digging for the singles, as Bones tended to do at times.

I’ll end with this: Mayberry’s threat to online trolls who made misogynistic and abusive comments towards her was to “see who blinks first.” Now with this album, she proves that her eyes are still wide open.

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