Chvrches, New Order, The Dead Weather and More Music Reviews

Plus, get the latest on Don Henley's new album and more.

ByAllan Raible
September 30, 2015, 2:59 AM
PHOTO: Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches performs on Day 2 of the V Festival at Weston Park on August 23, 2015 in Stafford, England.
Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches performs on Day 2 of the V Festival at Weston Park on August 23, 2015 in Stafford, England.

— -- intro: This week is really heavy in the release schedule. We have an awful lot to cover.

First, Scottish electro-pop band Chvrches releases its second record, then alterna-club legends New Order releases its first proper album in a decade. Jack White and the Kills’ Alison Mosshart rejoin forces in The Dead Weather after a five year break and Outkast’s Big Boi collaborates with Phantogram under the moniker “Big Grams.” Don Henley kind of goes country on his latest album, “Cass County,” while electro-dance act Disclosure loads its second album with high profile guests. Silversun Pickups continues to turn down the guitars and turn up the electronics while veteran act Los Lobos continues to defy labels with sheer eclecticism. Finally, singer-songwriter David Berkeley releases an intelligent, emotional folk album.

Hopefully this week there really is something for every kind of listener.

quicklist: 1title: Chvrches’ “Every Open Eye” (Special Edition) ****1/2text: If you loved Chvrches’ 2013 debut, “The Bones Of What You Believe,” the group's second album will not let you down in the least. In fact, the Scottish synth-pop trio obviously knows what works and delivers a slightly more intense sequel.

The secret to the trio's success seems to be the sonically clean, bright pop sound, mixed with Lauren Mayberry’s well-written, expressive lyrics. Mayberry has a background in journalism and it shows. Chvrches’ circle is also decidedly un-pop. The group counts The Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks among their friends. Both are bands that do extremely literate, smart indie rock. At first Chvrches may seem like it doesn't belong in this grouping, but songwriting-wise, it really does. The group just channeled that energy for more of a pop audience.

“Every Open Eye” is a bit more frenetic than its predecessor. Sure, their debut had the rapid-fire, driving “Gun, “and “Lies” but on here on both “Never Ending Circles” and “Clearest Blue,” they take that energy to nearly claustrophobic levels. This album in general is more tightly-wound.

It also has some nice surprises. Mainly, Martin Doherty’s lead-vocal turn on “High Enough To Carry You Over” really resonates. When the group slows down into ballad-mode on both the beautiful “Afterglow” and “Down Side Of Me,” the group really hits high marks.

As expected, this is a stirring collection, thick with synth-driven hooks and neon appeal, but it manages to court these sounds without ever sounding cheesy. It’s yet another really well-crafted pop album in the impressive 2015 crop.

The “Special Edition” version of the album comes with three bonus tracks. The last track, “Bow Down” sounds like an ace hit and should have received better (standard) album placement.

Really, “Every Open Eye” continues the high that began with the group's debut, re-positioning the synth-pop sounds of the eighties into a more modern context. This is surely one of the best pop albums of the fall.

Focus Tracks:

“Leave A Trace” This is a masterful single, showcasing the band members’ level of song-craft at its peak. In fact this is one of the best singles of the year, paired with a colorful and expressive music video which finds Mayberry singing in front of a various rainbow-hued swirls of clouds. Her lyrics are poetic as she sings, “You talk far too much for someone so unkind. / I will wipe the salt off from my skin and I’ll admit that I got it wrong / And there’s grey between the lines.”

“Playing Dead” This song is pretty intense, especially when it hits its explosive apex during the breakdown that occurs around the 2:22 mark. This is a future dance-club hit.

“Down Side Of Me” In spite of the syncopated beat, this track is lushly melodic and gentle in its attack. Mayberry has one of the clearest singing voices in the business and here she rings like a bell, capturing all the emotional tension during the sweeping chorus. This ballad again is another potentially huge single. It also has quite a bit of possible licensing possibilities. It sounds like one of the best songs you would find on the soundtrack for a John Hughes-inspired teen film.

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