The Bones of What You Believe remains one of my favourite records of the decade; with its release, the Glaswegian trio, led by the amiable Lauren Mayberry, assisted in the resurgence of synthpop - even managing to find ways to push the genre forward. Practically flawless, with vibrant synths layered so delicately over Mayberry’s quaint-yet-assured vocal, Bones was a stadium-sized record whose influence can be found in some of modern pop’s brightest moments – see: Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen. With such a distinctive sound, any attempt at progression in their second album was always likely to be divisive; the attempt either applauded, or the telling factor for the sophomore slump.
Every Open Eye manages to avoid both options; it’s far from the same record, with obvious shifts in style and delivery, but it feels like the trio have almost managed to stagnate so early into their musical development. Synths still shimmer, and Mayberry’s vocals are as compelling as ever, yet, there now appears to be an over-reliance on the chorus being able to carry the track. On Bones, there was an ever-present sense of energy, with the verses regularly being as compulsively listenable as the hook itself. This is, unfortunately, not the case with their sophomore record, with verses serving to bridge the gap between choruses on far too many an occasion. There’s nothing all too wrong with that – it’s a trait commonly found in mainstream pop, after all; but, for a band formerly of such exuberance, one can’t help but feel a little let down.
In saying this, Every Open Eye is far from a complete step backwards. Opener, and standout, “Never Ending Circles” boasts a delightful chorus that would feel at home on their debut LP, with an echoed vocal punctuating every little chord shift. The lofty “Leave a Trace”, and relentless “Bury It”, stand tall due to their heavy-hitting choruses. They may even have a potential single in “Playing Dead”; benefitting from a clear 80s influence, the track is sure to become a fan-favourite, with a hook that retains their charm while still allowing for greater accessibility.
The album’s highpoint, however, lies in “Clearest Blue”. Like “Tether” before it, the track builds carefully and with composure, offering just enough in its choruses without ever committing too much. That is, until we hit the outro, where the song climaxes with a pounding synth swirling against Mayberry’s vocal backdrop. Far from a track that defines the band as a whole – that honour will likely always belong to the “The Mother We Share” – it serves rather as the LP’s biggest song, and in an album that doesn’t quite reach the consistent peaks of its predecessor, it undeniably highlights every playthrough.
However, for every typically great track, there are some run-of-the-mill efforts (eg. “Keep You on My Side”; “High Enough to Carry You Over”). But by no means are they filler; in fact, it’s easy to liken the trio’s sophomore record to that of Purity Ring’s, Another Eternity. Both artists have struggled to maintain the sheer quality of their debut, with songs simply lacking the unique edge that underpinned their prior efforts, and gained them their devoted fanbases.
Every Open Eye is undoubtedly a good record, it’s just far from a great one. Only “Never Ending Circles” and “Clearest Blue” achieve as much success as that of the best tracks off Bones. While the Scottish trio haven’t exactly faltered on their second attempt, they have stuttered, and though a momentary blip can be easily excused, their next LP now bears a much greater sense of expectation. An expectation I sorely hope they can fulfil.