This Chvrches article was written by Steven Loftin, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse
Sophomore slump is a term that is thrown around a lot when reviewing an artist’s second record. It enters the artist’s mind when walking into the studio; this is the first time they’ll have expectations of them, and potentially an artist hasn’t quite had as much expectation as Chvrches.
2013’s acclaimed debut ‘The Bones of What You Believe’ gave a breath of fresh air into the synth pop/electronic circles, with singer Lauren Mayberry bringing her twee stylings to a bed of dreamy, ultra-80’s synths. ‘Every Open Eye’ isn’t quite a sophomore slump, but it’s also not a triumph. The album appears to, and unintentionally, breaks up into three parts: the beginning, the middle, and then ending.
Opening with ‘Never Ending Circles’, a powerful and catchy start. With an explosive chorus that utilises vocal loops and those characteristically dreamy synths mentioned earlier. It’s a promising start.
They carry this on into leading single, ‘Leave a Trace’. One of the stronger components of the record, the ideal choice for an example of what the album needs more of. A chorus that drives and compliments Mayberry’s vocals perfectly, and creates a passionate want of more
Even third track ‘Keep You On My Side’ has the same strengths as the previous two songs, but things also peter slightly here, and instead of being under or overwhelmed, you’re just “whelmed”. The lyrical, heart-on-sleeve, content is still there, and it’s as strong as ever, but you can’t help but feel you’ve heard it before.
We are met in the middle by a different voice, that of Martin Doherty. The track itself, ‘High Enough To Carry You’, as a solo song presents no issue. It’s the placement, instead of creating a coherent stream of songs; it separates two different sections of the album, thus creating three parts. This breakwater of sorts halts things. Musically, it’s Chrvches. All the key players are here, the synthesising dreamscape, the heartfelt lyrics.
For the final third of the album, things kick back in with ‘Empty Threat’, which gives hope for this third part, until the proceedings are arrested by the trawling ‘Down Side of Me’. The atmosphere in this third piece is a lot darker. There is an abundance of emotional substance, which you will miss if you aren’t paying attention. This still can’t take away from the “whelmingness”. The spark, that could be found on the first EPs and debut LP is not as much missing, as it is over-shadowed, by the pure strength of those releases.
This is still a solid pop album, with all the ingredients you’d expect of such a release. The vocal performance from Mayberry is as strong as ever, and there is a definite evolution to the perfection of the “Chvrches sound”. They just need to reignite what gave fire to the early releases and let it loose.
‘Every Open Eye’ is out now via Virgin EMI.