Joseph Mount is surely no stranger to solitude. After all, Metronomy was originally conceived in 1999 as Mount’s solo bedroom-electropop outfit. Though he has since picked up three band-mates, it is clear that Mount’s vision is still the driving force behind the group’s creative output. 2011’s The English Riviera paid a synth-soaked homage to the frontman’s native Devon, and in many ways Metronomy’s newest record Love Letters is equally personal. This time, instead of musing on young love and sleepy hometowns, Mount crafts 10 lo-fi pop gems that lament the loneliness of a musician’s existence.
The album opens with ‘The Upsetter’, a song so interwoven with spaced-out acoustic guitar that you half anticipate a couple of lines imploring Major Tom to get in touch with ground control. Elsewhere, Love Letters is reminiscent of late-60s soul—female harmonies and a bright, driving piano give the title track a distinctly nostalgic feel.
Joe Mount is, if nothing else, aesthetically consistent. Despite an obvious myriad of influences, from The Supremes to ambient, electronic duo Autechre, you can hear Mount’s stamp all over this record. The catchy, repetitive hooks that helped make The English Riviera so memorable are still prominent on Love Letters. Lyrically speaking, the album is hardly complex, but it helps to bear in mind that Metronomy are crafting pop music here. Lyrics aren’t so much a separate statement as they are a feature of a song’s structure.
The drum machine beats that drove much of the band’s earlier work are still put to liberal use on ‘I’m Aquarius’ and ‘Reservoir’. Still, there’s not much of this record that could be construed as particularly upbeat or danceable. Mount’s seclusion is pervasive—he has clearly spent years holed up in a tour bus away from his loved ones. On ‘Monstrous’ he implores: “hold on tight to everything you love/honestly it’s all I’m thinking of”. Admittedly, it would be hard to feel sorry for a man whose band opened a few arena gigs for Coldplay on their last tour, but Mount isn’t asking for your pity. Rather, he is something of a documentarian, distilling his experience into bittersweet and nuanced electronica.
Metronomy displays very little regard for current musical trends on Love Letters. Somewhere in the reverbed guitars on ‘Month of Sundays”, the band is toying tastefully with some mid-60s psychedelic kitsch. In a similar vein, ‘Monstrous’ features a simultaneously twee and trippy organ intro that could easily pass as something off of The Zombies Odyssey and Oracle. Mount’s melodically deadpan delivery is always going to be something of an acquired taste, but Love Letters is ultimately a tasteful (and unexpected) conglomerate of sounds and styles.
Physically and sonically speaking, Metronomy have come a long way from Mount’s bedroom in Devon, but thankfully their creative direction is still determined somewhere in the confines of his mind.