Everyone knows that making one good record is much easier than creating a second one that will hold up the credibility of the band while still taking risks necessary for maintaining success. This line of writing has to do with Scotland based CHVRCHES, our topic today.
Over the course of two very high energy and methodically crafted electronic albums, Iain Cook, Martin Doherty and Lauren Mayberry haven’t just redefined what an electronic act with a female front can do, but also how fast they can ascend to powerhouse in the beat oriented alternative genre.
The band's second album, “Every Eye Open,” follows the trend set by the powerful debut “The Bones of What You Believe,” but while the second album is similar, the band knew they couldn’t just rest on their laurels and instead furthered what they had so brilliantly done with “Bones.” In my writing on the top twenty albums of 2015, in which CHVRCHES landed at the very top spot I mentioned how the new record was difficult to initially embrace, which is true. By listen three I was still not convinced the trio had another luminous release, but by listen fifteen, twenty, fifty times I was able to see the love, the patience and the emotion they poured into the making of this record. Many songs are able to hook you, and though it took me time, the effort paid off. That’s what is great about serious music fans, which is a group I’d like to consider myself part of. You have to work towards it sometimes, like some form of an auditory relationship, which sounds weird and cliche and maybe even downright stupid, but it’s true. Music, and entertainment for that matter, is a relationship between artists and those that give it a chance.
Whether you end up hating it or living it, you build opinions, and thoughts, and if those end up being on the positive side, it strengthens your life. We all have those records that stay with us, and as of now, Mayberry and company have made two really great records. Having said all of that though, the second album wouldn’t have been possible if not for the giant break the band got when they unleashed their debut. Simply put, you can’t make a second album if no one gives a shit about the first one.
“The Bones of What You Believe,” is a wonderfully layered record that acted as new play on a somewhat familiar premise. Plenty of bands have made success out of electronic based instrumentation with a female lead. Crystal Castles is probably the most obvious choice to mention, and while that band is great, they approach their music from a darker, more ominous cave than CHVRCHES. What Mayberry does with her approach to music is more of a lighter touch and the singing and melodies and the smoothness of the delivery make the music easier to sing to, which undoubtedly helps when it comes to accessibility. From opener “The Mother We Share,” down the line, each song is futuristic and courageous, while building on a simple framework, devoid of making things more difficult just to do so. That song's infectious hook catapulted the band to a giant break, and before you knew it this band was rising not only in notability but also getting higher up on festival lineups, which is the modern way of judging a band's trajectory. Indeed, on the success of a awe inspiring first act, they had arrived, and were welcomed with tons of new fans and many rave reviews.
But therein lies the rub. As a I mentioned earlier the Sophomore record is arguably more important than a debut, for a variety of reasons. If you make a second solid album, you can maintain the craftsmanship you want, and of course, more people will continue to seek out your music if they know you’re reliable entertainment. Years ago Passion Pit was the next big thing, and before that it was MGMT. Both bands had great debut full length records, but when’s the last time you read a glowing review of a new album by either of those bands? That’s because they couldn’t sustain the quality they found in the early days. The list goes on and on, but the point is, CHVRCHES isn’t like those bands.
“Every Eye Open” is a brilliant record that for me, stands up better than their predecessor in a multitude of ways. Yes the album was obviously made in a more hasty manner than “Bones,” but that urgency thankfully created an album more focused, with a more full sound. Highlights of the record include the pulsating opener “Never Ending Circles,” and slow builder of soundscapes “Clearest Blue.” “Blue” in particular is excellent because while nothing about the song is light years ahead of the curb, the band took an approach to gradually build upon elements until the song is exploding with energy. Think of it as a more electronic version of LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends,” in the way it morphs from slow entrance to epic dance party.
The album hopefully means that the band will continue to work towards topping themselves as they did with the second release, and if they don’t well at least we have gotten two very good records out of the deal. But, I mean really, they for sure have it in them to make solidly thought provoking records that touch on themes of abandonment, dark religious undertones and ideas, and above all else, a sound that is crisp and concise enough to draw in fans from various walks and ideas. Thank you for reading, see you next time.
Landon Murray is a New Orleans native, who thrives on painting the world he interprets through the useful forms of all types of art he feels connected to. He's seen over 1000 bands, and had loved mostly every minute of it. He has an amazing 10 year old dog, and is loving life.
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