There’s no question about it: Every Open Eye bears an uncanny resemblance to CHVRCHES’ first album, The Bones of What You Believe. It seems like a carbon copy sonically, using similar synths to create a collection of throwback 80s synthpop tracks, drowning in glittery synths and hiding their edge underneath Lauren Mayberry’s gentle yet powerful voice. Normally this would be akin to a death knell, leading to a chorus of voices declaring it a “sophomore slump”. In the case of CHVRCHES, however, it has the exact opposite effect.
As hard as it is to avoid thinking of their older song We Sink as soon as Clearest Blue opens, or Lungs when Bury It gets into its groove, these similarities are in fact what makes the album’s strength so apparent. Bury It’s deceptively euphoric chorus feels like a much tighter version of Lungs, losing the odd vocal processing and crunching beat and replacing it with something polished, right down to the lyrics—We tried to bury it and rise above—and the instrumental break at the end of each chorus. Clearest Blue’s second half is such a sudden and powerful rush of fresh air that it removes any doubts you may have had about it during its first half. Hearing the older songs’ influence somewhere underneath just highlights the strength of these newer songs.
This tightening of their craft to such a degree is prevalent throughout Every Open Eye, never as self-referential as the previous two tracks but constantly reminiscent in an improved way. Keep You on My Side’s frantic bass synths and booming chorus instantly have more of an effect than the mostly slower mood of their debut. Afterglow offers a ballad full of synthetic strings and organ-like effects, highlighting Mayberry’s voice in an unexpected way that makes for the album’s most affecting, genuinely emotional moment. Even the general synthpop tracks feel stronger simply because of the increased polish of the album, with Empty Threat’s simple beat and skittering scales leading into a joyously 80s style chorus that keeps it feeling fresh and amazing without having to overhaul their sound completely.
If at first glance it appears CHVRCHES’ haven’t learnt anything in the time between albums, give it a closer listen and think again. Their craft has improved to the point that their style truly gets to shine in the best way possible here, showing that you don’t need to completely redefine yourself with every album to make something that’s leaps and bounds ahead of where you began. Even if you weren’t a fan of The Bones of What You Believe, listen to Every Open Eye: You don’t want to miss this.