Following the release of their third LP ‘The English Riviera’, Metronomy achieved the biggest commercial success of their career and their first Mercury nomination, while also appearing on a slew of “End of Year” lists. As in the video for single ‘The Bay’, they were riding high, only this time on a road to success. Thus, they could be forgiven for using their hard-earned cash to splurge on recording a lavishly produced and altogether more populist record, but no, Joe Mount and co. decided to venture down the opposite route, travelling inward, delivering a significantly smaller and more heartfelt record.
Lead single ‘I’m Aquarius’ was the initial indicator of this change of direction; much less accessible than anything on their previous album with its low-fi vibe and low-key tone, combined with doo-wop backing vocals and Mount’s moody and melancholic lyrics detailing a failed relationship that only serves to confounds him (“I’m aware of the procedure/But normally it’s me that leaves her”). It was succeeded by Love Letters’ title track, a deliciously 60s flavoured slice of jauntiness, delightfully visualised in its Michel Gondry-directed music video. Both songs were different in many ways, but similar in their lack of immediacy, both taking their time to grow and slowly, but surely wriggle their way into the listener’s ears. Though quite different to anything Metronomy have put out before, they easily rank along their finest material and glisten upon the tracklist as two shining achievements. However, this is more than a record with only two good songs; terrific opener ‘The Upsetter’ is an urgent cry of heartbreak, featuring some beautiful guitar lines, sole instrumental ‘Boy Racers’ is a curious but pleasing shift in pace, is a quirky and idiosyncratic piece of vintage electronica, while the excellent penultimate track ‘Reservoir’ is the nearest the album gets to featuring a traditional Metronomy song.
“I’m back out on the Riviera/It gets so cold at night” sings Mount on ‘The Upsetter’, setting the tone for the next nine tracks, contrasting with the sunny seaside romanticism of The English Riviera. That album painted pictures of a thriving and picturesque holiday resort, while Love Letters continuously creates images of the opposite – the stalls are closed and the sight of a visitor is as rare as the Mexican Staring Frog of Southern Sri Lanka. This is an album of wistful yearning and heartache, laced with sophistication and wit and complemented by entirely analogue production, recorded at Toe Rag Studios (where The White Stripes famously made Elephant). It repositions Metronomy as one of the more interesting, talented and imaginative pop bands of the moment – it seems that success hasn’t gone to their heads, with Love Letters becoming their highest charting album to date (reaching No. 7 on the UK Albums Chart). They’ve left their frivolousness back at the bay and crafted a darker, tighter and ultimately better record than anything they’ve released before.
Words: Matthew Jones
Watch the video for ‘Love Letters’ here: