Metronomy 'Love Letters' album review

Broken hearts and killer tunes make for a triumphant, offbeat pop album

Metronomy
    You’d have to possess a heart of stone not to want to give Joseph Mount a nice, big hug after listening to the fourth album by his electro-pop project Metronomy. He deserves it—partly because the album deals with a fair bit of modern-day heartbreak, but also because he’s made a brilliant record.
     
    With each album since since the ultra-quirky, ultra-fun electronica of Metronomy’s debut Pip Paine (Pay the £5000 You Owe) in 2006, Mount has steadily matured the band’s lo-fi, softly soulful curveball sound. On Love Letters, his songwriting is stronger than ever. There are more catchy hooks flying around here than an explosion in a fishing tackle superstore—but they’re matched by a tenderness that lingers just as long as the riffs.

    Take recent single "I’m Aquarius," a break-up track that plays Mount’s vulnerable voice against a ghostly, Motown-ish "shoop doop dopp aah" vocal, or the album’s title track, which starts with an extended, forlorn brass intro before breaking into stompy, nostalgic funk. Metronomy’s love for the quirkier side of pop clearly hasn’t disappeared: It’s still what gives them an edge and makes repeated listens a joy rather than a chore, even when the subject matter is a doomed relationship.

    Ah, yes—heartbreak. Even though they’re told gently, Mount’s tales of lost love here are as sad as they come, mainly because they’re observed through the lens of the everyday: less Romeo and Juliet, more Tim and Dawn from The Office (before they got it together). They’re doubly effective at plucking the heartstrings when combined with Mount’s killer melodies: the chorus of "The Most Immaculate Haircut" is huge, sounding like it came straight from golden-era Hall & Oates. (Just so we’re clear: that’s a good thing.)

    And hey, as great (and catchy) as the sadder tracks are, Love Letters is not all wistful reflection. Some of the love letters that Mount pens celebrate love rather than mourning it—and then out of nowhere comes "Boy Racers," sounding like French synth wizard Jean Michel Jarre having a cheeky disco jam.

    Metronomy’s last album, 2011’s The English Riviera, nudged their name up from the underground. The quietly beautiful leftfield pop of Love Letters will surely catapult them into the league they deserve to be in: the big one. Heartbreak never sounded so appealing.

    Metronomy plays Metro May 21.

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