It's a dilemna that's faced near every band that's produced a modest hit debut LP:
Do you push forward on your next effort, try something new, and broaden your stylistic range, or do you go to your strengths and double down on what your fans responded to in the first place.
In the case of Scottish synth-pop act Chvrches, there is no doubt than on Every Eye Open, their follow up to their 2013 full-length debut The Bones Of What You Believe, they have chosen to double down.
Gone is any trace of the light experimentalism, ala Science/Visions, that was peppered throughout Bones. In its place, an unrelenting phalanx of maximal synth-pop bangers, tailor-made for today's mega-festival main stages.
And while the album is unquestionably aiming to expand upon the band's mainstream appeal, there is still a lot here that more indie-oriented sorts like me will find appealing.
Lauren Mayberry's pixie-throated voice, while not unique in tone or delivery, is clear, crisp, well fit to this kind of material, and has an appealing lilt to it as she emotes. Bandmates Iain Cook and Martin Doherty definitely know their way around today's cutting-edge synths and sequencers, and most importantly, the band has an unerring ear for hooks.
But on the downside, while the hooks prevent even the weakest tracks from slipping too far off the rails, the repetitive design of these songs, coupled with a pervasive whiff of genericism (on many of these songs it even feels like the verses have been intentionally blanded out to allow the choruses to hit harder) prevents any song from truly taking flight.
Of those tracks that do rise a touch above the rest, opener Never Ending Circles, Clearest Blue, and personal favoite Bury It are the best of the bangers.
High Enough To Carry You Over and Afterglow also stand out, though here less so qualitatively and more so just because they're the only two songs that differentiate themselves musically in any significant way - High Enough To Carry You Over featuring a nice Martin Doherty lead vocal, and closing ballad Afterglow offering the album's one welcome repreive from all the hooky up-ness that dominates the rest of the record.
But in the end, as an overall assesment of Every Open Eye, I fear Chvrches have made the same mistake on their sophomore LP that Florence
Status: Mild Recommend
Cherry Picker's Best Bets: Never Ending Circles, Clearest Blue, Bury It, Afterglow.
1. Never Ending Circles - 8
2. Leave A Trace - 7
3. Keep You On My Side - 7
4. Make Them Gold - 6
5. Clearest Blue - 8
6. High Enough To Carry You Over - 7
7. Empty Threat - 7
8. Down Side Of Me - 6
9. Playing Dead - 6
10. Bury It - 8
11. Afterglow - 8
Intagibles - Below Average
Here's the official videos for the album's three strongest songs, Never Ending Circles, Clearest Blue, and Bury It.