CHVRCHES’ new album Every Open Eye shows them trying to find balance on a tightrope between pop and alternative. At their best, they create pop anthems that are sincere to their core and have a unique sound. At their worst, their tracks drag on and fail to hit any kind of sweet spot acoustically. The album begins strongly with “Neverending Circles,” launching the listener into the album with a crunchy synth noise reminiscent of some of the best on The Mother We Share (2012). “Make Them Gold” is inspirational and defiant, with lead singer Lauren Mayberry proclaiming, “We are made of our longest days,” and shows that the adversity she faced personally has only made her stronger.
The album only begins going downhill when it slows down on the back half. “High Enough to Carry You Over” is not only a boring ballad, but one that inexplicably removes the band’s greatest strength—Mayberry’s voice. The male members of this band simply don’t have the talent to carry on without her voice leading the way. The lyrics are trite and the music is generic, the whole track just feels like filler material. “Empty Threat” gets the album back on track, but there’s a feeling that it has already lost its momentum and started to drag, with the songs lingering 10 to 20 seconds too long.
At 42 minutes, the album is relatively short, but drags on unnecessarily. “Down Side of Me” is an interesting song, but tries to incorporate too much and dedicates a lot of time to stripped-down verses with a beat that sounds ripped from GarageBand. Overall, the main problem with the album is that it doesn’t seem to hit the massive highs of The Bones of What You Believe. That album had some absolutely fabulous breakdowns, usually with the help of sampled vocals to give things an organic feeling, something this album lacks for the most part. It feels like CHVRCHES has attempted to make their music more friendly to a pop audience, but in the process, they have lost track of their strengths.
There are enough good singles on this album that seem to indicate success, and will play well live, but it lacks an overall sense of immediacy. In a year which has seen several releases from comparable synth-pop bands, (Braids and Purity Ring come to mind), CHVRCHES don’t put forward something that competes. Overall, this is an album which will please fans, but isn’t likely to make the band stand out in the independent scene.