Albums Of The Week

Synth tunes in all their glory

Chvrches' (from far left) Iain Cook, Lauren Mayberry and Martin Doherty make 1980s pop relevant to a new generation.
Chvrches' (from far left) Iain Cook, Lauren Mayberry and Martin Doherty make 1980s pop relevant to a new generation.PHOTO: LANEWAY FESTIVAL SINGAPORE/ UNIVERSAL MUSIC SINGAPORE

Chvrches' self-produced album Every Open Eye celebrates 1980s synth-driven pop music

A couple of years after popularising synth-pop to a new generation of indie fans and inspiring more than a few imitators, Scottish trio Chvrches return with a sophomore full-length album that is the band's most assertive and confident batch of songs yet.

Every Open Eye is a glorious reinvention of 1980s synth-driven music, a celebration of the genre's exhilarating pop sounds that hark back to the heyday of acts such as The Human League and Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark.

Chvrches' 2013 debut, The Bones Of What You Believe, catapulted them from blogosphere buzz to worldwide gigging, including two shows in Singapore last year. They return on Jan 30 for music festival Laneway at Gardens by the Bay.

While they could well afford brand-name producers and fancy studios, singer/musicians Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty decided to hunker down in their flat studio in Glasgow to produce the album themselves.

The DIY spirit, coupled with extensive gigging experience, seems to have given the band a new understanding of what grabs their audience. Many of the tunes are unabashed, hand-raising pop and full of hooks.




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There are not-so-subtle nods to synth-pop pioneer Vince Clarke, of Depeche Mode, Yazoo and Erasure fame, who made catchy lines and easily accessible melodies front and centre. In fact, an interpretation of the stabbing synth lines from Depeche Mode's 1981 hit Just Can't Get Enough appears twice - on Bury It and Clearest Blue.

The band have a clear grasp on tension and release, filling the album with plenty of build-ups and beat drops to take listeners to a euphoric high.

There is a marked tenacity in Mayberry's singing, a spirited showing for a frontwoman who made headlines for taking on misogynist online trolls. On the solitary, emotional ballad Down Side Of Me and the sparse exit music mood of album closer Afterglow, her saccharine vocals come to the fore.

Doherty takes over on the bass- heavy High Enough To Carry You Over, his slightly raspy voice the only lead male vocal on the album.

It can be argued that the music Chvrches make is derivative, but they continue the hallowed tradition of taking a genre from the past and making it relevant. No other contemporary act does synth-pop like they do. Mayberry sums it up best in Make Them Gold when she vows to "take the best parts of ourselves, and make them gold".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2015, with the headline 'Synth tunes in all their glory'. Print Edition | Subscribe