“Back on the Riviera, it gets cold at night”, so goes a line in the first track on ‘Love Letters’, Metronomy’s fourth studio album, and their first since 2011’s breakout affair ‘The English Riviera’. Perhaps referring to the last album and his Devon coast upbringing (and a long lost teenage love affair), ‘Love Letters’ is for the most part a reflection of love and relationships, but brought up to the present – Metronomy’s Joseph Mount has lived in that City of Love, Paris, for the past four years, drawn there by love…
From the Prince influenced electro-glitch of ‘Pip Paine’ and ‘Nights Out’ to the more indie rock territory of ‘The English Riviera’ album, we’ve been witnessing the maturation of Mount and his music. ‘Love Letters’ is an (almost) grown up kind of record, certainly more reflective and soulful than ever, and one that speaks eloquently of affairs of the heart. It may be a little less playful than we are used to, but Joseph Mount continues to demonstrate an uncanny and subtle way with melody: on the surface there may be a nursery school feel about some of the music and lyrics, but let them wash over you a few times and the songs nuances, subtle dynamism and flow just seem to invariably work in its favour.
The first two songs immediately show off the new, grown up Metronomy; ‘The Upsetter’ features one of Mount’s best vocals, a passionate and soulful performance that is aided by a good old fashioned (and effects-free) guitar solo. While on The Aquarius, the sparse musical minimalism continues, this time given colour by a cascading keyboard. The downbeat hue continues with the baroque keyboards and vocals of ‘Monstrous’, conjuring up a passing imitation of Gary Numan, before plaintive trumpets give way to the super-jolly vibes of ‘Love Letters’. It’s not a moment too soon, the pounding Motown beat along with 70s style Andrew Gold piano is the most obvious uplifting track on the album, an oasis on an album of generally atmospheric, slower paced numbers.
Many good albums slowly peter out as the end approaches and the well of creativity runs dry, not so with Metronomy, who save some of the best for last, beginning with contender for Song Title of the Year – ‘The Most Immaculate Haircut’ – a tune that features an inexplicable detour into the sound of cicadas and splashing water… This desire to occasionally upset the apple cart, to be wilfully arty and with a glint in the eye, usually works in their favour. It’s a big reason why many of us have taken Metronomy to our hearts; their lack of derisory sixth form poetry and po-faced musicality, along with the moments self-deprecation and humour. Without the songs this would all be meaningless, and Mount continues to deliver with ‘Reservoir’, which brings back the drum machine (the album is a good mix of acoustic drums and drum machines) and some tasteful and even electrifying synth patterns and splashes and then there’s the final track ‘Never Wanted’, a truly melancholic yet strangely uplifting way to end, with plucked bass merging with strummed guitar, and accompanied by the sound of an occasional passing car that adds that all-important Metronomy intrigue and playfulness. “Does it get better?” asks Mount. It may not.