Metronomy are a band preoccupied with nostalgia and it is this mindset which resonates in their fourth album Love Letters, both in terms of musical style and lyrical content. The band’s lead singer, Joseph Mount, describes the nostalgic feel to the album as inspired by the fact that ‘nobody writes love letters anymore’.
While their last album The English Riviera offered sun-drenched images of ironic glamour and romance, set to early 80s synths, the far moodier Love Letters further explores musical history, drawing from glam, psychedelia and Motown. It’s unavoidable and somewhat unfortunate, however, that this album will be overshadowed by its critically-acclaimed predecessor, which received a Mercury Award nomination and became the band’s biggest success back in 2011.
The opening song, The Upsetter sets a tone of angst and longing, and makes reference to the band’s previous album, “give we’ve got to be together, and back out on the Riviera”, suggesting a narrative continuity between the two albums. I’m Aquarius features a very nostalgic backing lyric “shoop doop doop ah”, referencing early RnB, whilst the (clearly intentionally) thin-sounding Monstrous” is powered by a positively prehistoric drum machine. The album’s titular track Love Letters explodes into a euphoric Motown chorus after a slow instrumental opening; the song stands out not for its superior quality to the rest of the album, but because of its powerful delivery, which contrasts with the introspective nature of the other songs.
It’s difficult to consider Love Letters without comparing it to The English Rivera, but overall the former is far moodier and much less polished. There is subtle beauty to be found in Love Letters, among the sonic thinness that the band reveres.
It’s because of this that, despite the further success Metronomy deserve, this album will not perform well commercially. Love Letters is just fundamentally less accessible than The English Rivera, and does not appeal to the overblown style of electronica that is popular in mainstream music today.