Metronomy are not a nostalgia outfit but it’s extremely easy to end up looking at them like that. It’s the soft keys, the tight snare and the glowing sax. Through surface appreciation and their unassuming approach they are often ushered in to a cosy pocket with a direct route to the ‘dinner party’ playlists of inner-city twenty somethings. ‘Love Letters’ triumphs in uncovering a coiled sincerity underneath their uber-polished facade. The album’s title track does a fantastic job of illustrating this masked candor - across it’s 5 minute running time the melody barely stretches beyond three notes. Neither do their lyrics, which never exceed the explicit sentiment of “I’ll keep on writing love letters”. Yet somehow, through thoughtfully muted instrumentation and breathtaking synchronicity, the band muster a bellyful of character that, whilst subtle, speaks volumes. ‘Love Letters’ manages to translate a wealth of undone desire and shifted feelings through brilliant suggestion.
It is then an album of pop songs about love. ‘I’m Aquarius’, the confused and bewildered post break up “shoop doop do wa” alongside the desperate-meets-docile jealousy of ‘The Most Immaculate Haircut’. Each song soars on the merit of performance and the band’s control. Whilst lead singer Joseph Mount appears to present the ‘front man’ dynamic, the album has a pristine quality that resoundingly suggests a four-piece with fantastic spatial awareness. Every note is hit in full knowledge of the surrounding elements that will cushion or propel, providing a secure buoyancy. The question, of course, that may be asked is one of growth. Have the band provided a trajectory for their fan base. In an ‘OK Computer’ to ‘Kid A’ sense - no. However Metronomy don’t seem to want to, choosing rather to internalise their growth, channeling their energy in something tighter yet with no less purpose. Their reputation as the overlords of wistful sheen and sugary melancholy isn’t fractured by ‘Love Letters’ but they have pulled back the music-hall curtain a tiny bit to subtly uncloak the heartbreak using nothing but lyrical insinuation and crisp instrumentation.
Their achievements are mirrored in Michel Gondry’s homespun video for the album’s lead single. It is, on the surface, a neo-twee sojourn in various illustrated settings that charms with it’s pastel colours and clever staging. Yet more closely, or on repeat viewings, the video is in fact an immaculate one take piece of film that admirably both characterises the songs subject matter as well as the band’s persona. It offers the succinct pop experience, with a melody that lasts.
Words: Angus Harrison