A lot of synth-pop that still comes out these days feels merely like a nostalgia grab. It’s something to tide people over until they get the next actual good nugget of the genre. Most contemporary synth-pop lacks emotion, foregoing the subtlety for the hollow noise that inevitably invades its genre. A fairly new group like Chvrches can often fall subject to this, as they did on their first album, “The Bones of What You Believe.” The sounds and feelings were all there, but the lack of true passion about the genre they are a part of really detracted from the experience of what the album ended up being. When you think about what kind of music they should be making, “Every Open Eye” really highlights the evolution of their sound.
Although the album lacks a hit like “The Mother We Share,” with its pounding, communal chorus, whatever excitement “Every Open Eye” exudes owes a lot to lead singer Lauren Mayberry. She is, without question, one of the brightest voices currently in pop music. Her cheerfully powerful voice backed by delightful synths and understated drums makes every song dazzlingly resplendent without creating a sense of repetition, which was somehow present on their first album. Her voice has such a small hint of emotion behind it that it really helps the dimensions of each track shine.
Mayberry’s vocal performances and the inventive synth-pop instrumentals dance around each other for the entirety of the album’s run time. Track 9, “Playing Dead,” sees Mayberry give herself to the song and the song itself give back to her. She sings, and then is immediately sampled. The album’s fifth track, “Clearest Blue,” pounds with a subdued alarm-like synth that persists throughout the track until it veers into a triumphant and dance-y outro intensified by Mayberry’s repetition of the line “Shaped by, clearest blue.”
That’s not to say that Iain Cook and Martin Doherty, the other two members of Chvrches, don’t create some playful and equally genial sounds. What sets “Every Open Eye” apart from most synth-pop out there, and even from Chvrches’ first album, is the music being created by everyone in the band. All three members present the album as a group effort, and although it’s just three people, it sounds like a packed studio crafting noises. Track 7, “Empty Threat,” starts without warning, operating on a simple yet nimble disco beat, while the next track, “Down Side of Me,” has a muddy and solemn drum and bass progression. Every song builds on the last in ways that often flip-flop, until the eclectic energy leads to the solemn 11th and final track, “Afterglow,” in which the gleaming melodies fade away for a final three minutes of another moving vocal performance while synth-pop strings swell in the background. As the swells develop, we’re left wondering where the past 40 minutes went.
The closest thing to a hit Chvrches yields on “Every Open Eye” is the second track and first single from the album, “Leave A Trace,” which works as a broad testimony for Chvrches’ work so far. It is an infectiously driving and determined synth-pop track as there has been in quite some time. Mayberry’s spright gives us what is an astute three minutes of bliss and unabashed emotion that synth-pop needs. Three minutes turns into 30 minutes that continually make a case for Chvrches’ talent, and before you know it, “Every Open Eye” escalates into the poster child of universal yet personal jumpy pop.