Album Review: CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye

By on Monday, 28th September 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Every Open Eye coverLauren Mayberry, the lead singer for Scottish electropop trio CHVRCHES, has been outspoken throughout her career against the objectification of female musicians. She has recently come into the media spotlight again with the virulent response to the video for CHVRCHES’ recent single ‘Leave a Trace’, from their second album ‘Every Open Eye’.

The swirl of media attention surrounding ‘Leave a Trace’ casts a new light across all of the glam-pop songs on ‘Every Open Eye’. Without the context of the recent Internet attacks on Mayberry, the songs’ lyrics are ostensibly focused on a romantic breakup, the female protagonist cutting her losses and determinedly moving forward with her life. But in terms of the ongoing discussion about misogyny directed toward female musicians, Mayberry now seems to be singing about overcoming her detractors, sending a bold message that she won’t be silenced.

The gloriously infectious chorus of opening track ‘Never Ending Circles’ draws the listener’s attention immediately with Mayberry’s sharp, sweet vocals and an irresistibly catchy dance beat. Its sparkling musical arrangement is an ironic contrast to the sense of futility and frustration in the lyrics, “here’s to never ending circles / and building them on top of me / here’s to just another no man / if you want another, say you need another”.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/AU9_0pxiDjY[/youtube]

Mayberry continues that brazenly ironic tone of voice on the aforementioned ‘Leave a Trace’, as she sings, “I have somehow got / away with everything / anything you ever did was strictly by design”. She carries the idea through to the song’s chorus where her male antagonist is warned “take care to bury all that you can / take care to leave a trace of a man”.

‘Keep You on My Side’ and ‘Make Them Gold’ are both vigorously rhythm-oriented, though their lyrical themes are more inwardly focused. The strident dance beat in the former track reinforces the repeated verse “I don’t sleep well laying low / never letting up, never letting go” as Mayberry reaffirms her own inner strength, while a glimmering keyboard line and deeply resounding bass riff underscore the hope and resilience in the chorus of the latter.

Mayberry best expresses the turmoil of her situation in the anxious suspense of standout track ‘Clearest Blue’. Nervously pounding drums propel her rapid-fire diction in the chorus “just another time I’m caught inside / every open eye / holding on tightly to the sides / never quite learning why”.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/QpFXXPruuqU[/youtube]

The album’s flow is interrupted a bit at its midpoint, ‘High Enough to Carry You Over’, where one of Mayberry’s male bandmates takes over the lead vocal helm. Taken individually, the track works well enough, harkening back to a darker and more angular ’80s synth rock style. But it falls flat in the context of the bright synthpop of the rest of the LP and its chorus, while engaging, comes across as more defeated than optimistic.

The overall musical tone of the album changes after this point, becoming slightly bitter and even a bit belligerent in moody tracks ‘Empty Threat’ and ‘Playing Dead’, where Mayberry stares her antagonist down with the lines “you can tell me to move and I won’t go / you can tell me to try and I won’t go”. ‘Down Side of Me’ is a darkly brooding cauldron of thickly bubbling synths and swirling layers of backing vocals centered around the haunting chant, “you’re not the same”. By contrast, Mayberry’s voice is especially sweet and ethereal on the airy postlude ‘Afterglow’, whose lyrics are pregnant with meaning when considered beside the recent Internet trolling drama, particularly the echoing final line “I’ve given up all I can”.

The first half of ‘Every Open Eye’ is a strong and self-assured statement of intent, and while the second half falters slightly, the album leaves an overall impression of confidence and forward momentum. Its glitzy pop-centred production sweetens the bitter aftertaste in Mayberry’s lyrics, but her message is clear and undiluted, delivered with the kind of bold bravado and cool confidence that only comes from hard experience.

8/10

‘Every Open Eye’ saw its release last Friday, the 25th of September, on Virgin EMI / Goodbye Records in the UK and on Glassnote Records in America. CHVRCHES will support the album’s release with a run of live dates in the UK this November. 

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