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Metronomy – The English Riviera album review

With summer creeping closer on the horizon, the season needs a soundtrack, and British band Metronomy, with their latest album’s opening sounds of the beach and an accordion, have produced a delightful album that will complement those long, sun-soaked days perfectly.

Should you already be accustomed to shimmying to Metronomy’s earlier material at electro nights, The English Riviera might take some getting used to, as the band have forged a completely new direction into a 70’s surf feel. However, they have retained their ominous synths while giving frontman’s Joe Mount’s vocals room to breathe.

Furthermore, since their distinctly nu-ravey genesis, Metronomy have overseen a line-up shake-up, adding vocalist Anna Prior to the mix, whose voice is über pleasant.
The last album by Metronomy, ‘Nights Out’, deservedly got them plenty of attention with its collection of danceable pop ditties that could comfortably edge towards the introspective while still seeming like a party. Accordingly, Metronomy, in the process of touring ‘Nights Out’, began to metamorphosize into a more mature outfit. Yet, evidently, Metronomy is still a vehicle for Joseph Mount’s songs, but in rising to the challenge presented by their critical and crowd reactions there have been shifts of the subtle and not-so-subtle kinds.

On the English Riviera Metronomy have done what they do best; fusing lackadaisical guitars, mind bogglingly high vocal parts and minimal drums (while adding a cheeky maracca every now and again) which amounts to a rather compelling outcome. From the first track ‘We Broke Free’, the album pushed forth a slightly unsettling whirl of synths, classy bass and angelic layered vocals.

‘The Look’ is an uptempo exercise in dark pop, and is followed by the gloriously hypnotic ‘She Wants’, which sounds like The XX might sound if they let loose a bit more. ‘The Bay’ is Depeche Mode-esque, being the likeliest tune for a dancefloor-worthy makeover.

The whimsical-sounding ‘Some Written’ sounds like a Belle and Sebastian song written by cute robots, and sees Mount bemoaning his romantic life trials: “you left a number that’s eight numbers long.”

Funnily enough, it is the songs that most closely resemble the Metronomy of old, ‘Loving Arm’ and ‘Love Underlined’, that fail to hit the mark, sounding like an amalgamation of all the worst bits out of old computer game music. The English Riviera’s standout songs include ‘Trouble’, ‘She Wants,’ ‘The Look’ and ‘Corinne’.

On ‘Trouble’, chiming guitars and undercurrents of synth allow lead singer Joseph Mount to sing almost beatifically, painfully conceding, “But what I do to you, is always come back to you, my heart is oh so true.” This appears to be Metronomy’s attempt at a love song but this is not just any old love song, as it contains some rather startling vocoded vocals.

‘She Wants’ presents a throbbing combination of deep synthesizer and impeccably plucked bass, topped off with a rattling tambourine which is sure to appeal to festival goers.

A sumptuous church organ dominates the proceedings On ‘The Look’ and, as the other instruments steadily filter in, one thing becomes clear: the sheer brilliance of Metronomy’s compositional skills. Sometimes keeping it simple really is best. The best track on the album is arguably ‘Corinne’, with sharp guitar, swelling synth and charming vocals; “I got my heart set up, with a boom and a bang.”

All in all, Metronomy’s music is a breath of fresh air – who else would dare to sample some dastardly seagulls and then add a layer of some euphoric violins over it? This could be the album that propels Metronomy into the mainstream, given that it would feel like an injustice for them to remain obscure for much longer.

By Sheila Ring

Sheila lives in Ireland, and has written for a number of local, national, UK, and online publications.

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