"Even in those loops and samples they're making something genuinely new."
Perhaps it's in the way they put together some almost contradictory elements, but Chvrches are becoming something special.
It is synth-pop, often based on the classic 1980s model. But even in those loops and samples they're making something genuinely new. Then there's the human instrument: Lauren Mayberry's voice and presence more individual, even as she rode out one of those cliched social media shitstorms over how she chose to present herself. Actually listen to some of the sometimes assertive — but certainly honest and thoughtful — conversations of her lyrics. The voice is human, but don't mistake its apparent fragility for weakness. It's never shrill, Leave A Trace one of several intelligent 'break-up songs' that dot the album. She'll take some of the blame for a relationship splintering — just not all of it. In different places, the thought process is ongoing — Playing Dead claims there are "no silver linings", Clearest Blue the return of some clarity, while the final Afterglow gets almost hymnal and certainly hopeful she's come through it all.
There's further variety: High Enough To Carry You Over is more stately, with Martin Doherty handling the lead vocal to reinforce a different point of view. Overall, it's maybe more stripped back than the first record — these are songs that happen to have machines as part of them, rather than their being mechanically formed. They're more real and revealing for that, Never Ending Circles' softer but inexorable whirlpools showing the quality of the pop music they now make.