Every Open Eye by Chvrches
You could see this one coming a mile away. I’ve talked a lot about this album all year, and the Top 31 is chockablock with bands that sound just like this band. But none of them are as good as Chvrches.
You may remember them from their debut album, The Bones of What You Believe, which was #4 in 2013. I didn’t think Bones could be topped, and when I first heard Every Open Eye, I’d believed that. And then I listened to it again. And again. And again. I’ve been listening to it pretty much non-stop since it arrived in late September. That‘s when I knew.
Chvrches is a trio from Glasgow, Scotland. Lauren Mayberry sings lead vocals (and sometimes plays synthesizers and samplers). Iain Cook plays synthesizers (and sometimes guitar, bass, and sings backup vocals — and even lead on a couple songs). And Martin Doherty also plays synthesizers and samplers (and sings backup vocals). Strong female-led vocals on top of synthesizers; Chvrches is defining the synth-pop genre, one glorious song after another.
The video above, for “Empty Threat,” is a fun video, but it’s not the best song on the album. That would have to be “Clearest Blue,” but sadly there’s only a lyric video for that song. You can also see a video for “Leave a Trace” and a couple other lyric videos. “Clearest Blue” is the climax of this album, and demonstrates what makes this band so great. There’s nothing truly surprising about what they do. It’s derivative pop, but isn’t that what pop is all about: taking a well-defined set of tools and changing things around slightly to make it your own? That’s what Chvrches does, and they do it superbly.
I’m somewhat disappointed to say that this is only the second time a woman has topped the Bacon Top 31 in the seven years I’ve been compiling this list (Fiona Apple did it in 2012). Not only that, but I enjoyed more women-led bands in 2015 then ever before, at 10 acts. (In 2009 there were five, 2010 and 2011 just one(!), 2012 and 2013 there were six each, and last year there were nine. This is a good trend.)
While researching for this article I came across this video of Lauren Mayberry singing a duet with former #1 one band on the Top 31, The National, at this year’s Treasure Island Music Festival. Following that, there was this fun little interview between Mayberry and The National’s lead singer Matt Berninger about that performance and other lead-singer #firstworldproblems. Watch that second video and you’ll get to hear Berninger say about The National: “We are the mop bucket of indie rock,” and Mayberry about her musical ability: “I’m the emotional litmus test.” I want to have dinner with them both.
What a great year for music. It took me a while to realize that Every Open Eye deserved to be the #1 album, but after listening to it for the hundredth time, and realizing the staying power their previous album has had in my ears, it’s clear I’m going to be listening to this band well beyond the time it would be merely embarrassing for my son to admit. I look forward to being a grandpa and reminiscing about this band. Or, who knows, maybe they’ll still be producing music then, a la The Rolling Stones. Wouldn’t that be something!
I hope you’ve enjoyed the countdown as much as I have. I’m already listening to things that will be on next years countdown, but did I miss anything this year? Let me know! I always have a couple albums that I regret not having heard sooner (like the San Fermin album Jackrabbit, which I didn’t hear until a couple weeks ago). Until next year…
2. Coming Home by Leon Bridges
3. My Love Is Cool by Wolf Alice
4. Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens
5. Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett
6. I Love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty
7. Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes
8. Another Eternity by Purity Ring
9. Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance by Belle and Sebastian
10. Return to the Moon by El Vy
11. Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording) by Lin-Manuel Miranda
12. Art Angels by Grimes
13. The Horse Comanche by Chadwick Stokes
14. Grace Love & the True Loves by Grace Love & the True Loves
15. Shake Shook Shaken by The dø
16. La Di Da Di by Battles
17. Sky City by Amason
18. What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World by The Decemberists
19. Untethered Moon by Built to Spill
20. Viet Cong by Viet Cong
21. The Magic Whip by Blur
22. Savage Hills Ballroom by Youth Lagoon
23. Not Real by Stealing Sheep
24. Beat the Champ by The Mountain Goats
25. Gliss Riffer by Dan Deacon
26. Dark Bird is Home by The Tallest Man on Earth
27. Gunnera by Pfarmers
28. Swimmer to a Liquid Armchair by Ricked Wickey
29. To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
30. Live in Seattle by Moufang / Czamanski
31. High by Royal Headache