Released on the same day, Chvrches’ and Disclosure’s respective second LPs offer a glimpse into the way that artists can follow up wildly successful debuts. Caracal is, though not a terrible album, revealing enough in the mistakes that it makes that it calls into question the achievement of Settle. By attempting to broaden out their influences, Disclosure’s Surrey-born brothers accidentally let slip that they have no identity of their own, and they cannot help but fall back on celebrity spots and an indefinite sound culled from consensus lists of the best electronic albums of all time. Compare that duo’s wan follow-up with the perfection of focus that defines Every Open Eye, which doubles down on the Scottish trio’s synthpop love but crucially proves that they are more than mere copycats.

“Never Ending Circles” stomps out of the gate and immediately threatens to show up the most bombastic moments of The Bones of What You Believe; its pummeling synthline could easily pass for heavy metal if played through a guitar instead of a keyboard, and its sheer grandeur and volume practically demand to get the band slotted into bigger venues just to fit in their bolder sound. Befitting the ferocity of the music are Lauren Mayberry’s take-no-prisoners lyrics, which excoriate a neglectful lover for dragging her down and not even having the decency to admit he wants out. “Here’s to another no man,” she toasts sardonically, and you almost feel sorry for the poor bastard for being roasted so thoroughly on-record.

In general, Mayberry’s increased confidence may be the most critical aspect of the album’s expansion on its predecessor. On Chvrches’ first album, Mayberry sometimes let her high-pitched voice dissipate energy in favor of an indie-friendly sense of boredom and uncertainty. Here, the only thing she still can’t figure out is why she has tolerated the failures of crappy men for as long as she has. Even a song that might otherwise be exposed as trite sentimentality—like “Make Them Gold” and its can-do spirit—is made belligerent and defiant by Mayberry’s powerhouse delivery of lines like “We are made of our longest days/ We are falling but not alone.” Like any great pop star, Mayberry projects at once uncompromising individuality and a broad appeal that makes fans think she’s one of them and speaks their collective thoughts, and much of the album builds from the specificity of her experiences out into universal pop catharsis.

Along with Mayberry’s voice, the band in general sounds infinitely tighter this time around. Where numerous songs on Bones tended to start strong but lose focus here and there, Every Open Eye roars through each track without flagging. “Clearest Blue,” the album’s clear standout, is all crescendo, building across its entire length until it absolutely explodes into a synth riff redolent of Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough” if the group had written that song during the height of their fame (and access to technology) and not at the beginning of their career. Even some of its ballads generally sound fiercer than some intended show-stoppers on the debut; “Down Side of Me” finds the band much more focused in its balladry, replacing the longueurs of a track like “Science/Visions,” with a percolating synth flecked by clacking, front-mixed percussion that lends an edge to Mayberry’s starkly separated voice.

If the album has a drawback, it is that the band’s newfound sense of direction occasionally has the side effect of removing the first LP’s flashes of variety. It can be hard to tell apart, say, the runaway energy of “Empty Threat” with the slightly slowed but no-less-ebullient “Bury It.” Perhaps the only truly distinct moment of the record is also the weakest, when Martin Doherty takes lead vocals for “High Enough to Carry You Over.” Doherty isn’t a bad singer, and his spotlight on the debut fit within that album’s more emotionally unsure tone. But with Mayberry having evolved into a megawatt talent with the confidence to match, the flatter tones of Doherty’s voice stick out, especially when sandwiched between the two most explosive tracks. Despite these hiccups, however, Chvrches only cement their status as some of the best throwback synthpop artists around, and if Every Open Eye seems altogether sunnier and less complicated than its predecessor, that only makes it a better fit with the timeless music that influences it.

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