It was in September 2013, some two years and three months ago, that Scottish synth-junkies Chvrches burst from their bubbling underground following into the conscience of the mainstream, with 11-song debut LP ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’. Electronic rave-pop with an adult edge, the trio not only began to occupy heavy rotation on the in-store radio stations for most major high-street clothing stores, but gained significant exposure not just at the Reading and Leeds Festivals, but also the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, conveniently held in their hometown. Now, the Glaswegian-based group – comprising Iain Cook, Lauren Mayberry and Martin Doherty – return, with spectacular sophomore follow-up effort ‘Every Open Eye’.
We begin with the sparkling double-whammy of ‘Never Ending Circles’ and ‘Leave A Trace’. An explosion of colour, vibrancy, as well as the mandatory top-notch panning we have come to expect of the band responsible for ‘The Mother We Share’. These openers reassure that none of the lyrical dexterity of ‘Bones’ has been lost in the two years since its release: the themes are perhaps presented with a little more subtlety here, but they’re definitely there. ‘Leave A Trace’, in particular, reads as Mayberry’s rallying cry against the restrictions placed upon her in her relationships both in the music industry and in her personal life, as well as an anthem to back up her media campaign against misogyny in the online sphere. And it continues in much the same vein, perhaps even improving as the record progresses – ‘Clearest Blue’ a future dance-floor classic which eventually builds into an immensely-satisfying ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’-tribute, while the chord progression on ‘Playing Dead’ as spectacularly uplifting as its instrumentation is stadium-ready. The peaks are many, and constant.
There is a sense throughout, too, of even wanting to put right perceived wrongs of ‘Bones’. Once hit single ‘Recover’ was out of the way ‘Bones’ seemed to peter out towards its end: not so, here, with penultimate track ‘Bury It’ set to follow the singles from ‘Bones’ in dominating clothing store radio for months to come, and the aforementioned ‘Playing Dead’, third from last in the tracklisting, perhaps the effort you’ll return to most often. Additionally, ‘High Enough To Carry Them Over’ here sees Doherty lend lead vocals to a sensual, throbbing album highlight, where the Doherty-led songs on ‘Bones’ (‘Under the Tide’ and ‘You Caught The Light’) had been by a distance its least-exciting moments.
Not everything here is ‘album of the year’ territory – ‘Make Them Gold’ veers too far into an 80’s tribute to be particularly interesting, and the dreamy, drifting ‘Afterglow’ is a dull and anticlimactic closer, without any great noticeable either sonic or lyrical link to the previous eleven tracks. But nine of the eleven tracks here far outweigh these minor misfires and thus, as a collection, ‘Every Open Eye’ is not just the most satisfying album of the year but probably the most defiant rebuttal of the ‘second album syndrome’ cliché since ’21’ by Adele.