For a band centered in electronic pop, Metronomy have a surprisingly eclectic sound. From the disco-influenced Summer 08, to the psychedelic-infused Love Letters, through to the sentimental The English Riviera, Metronomy enjoy tinging their sound with subtle changes on each new release. It’s the group’s sophomore, breakthrough record Nights Out that epitomized this, as it flirts with elements of indie pop, electronica, and synthpop. It is a welcomed surprise, then, that the band’s latest release Metronomy Forever, feels much like a spiritual successor to Nights Out.
Following his work with Robyn, co-writing and producing her 2018 album Honey, and releasing a 10th Anniversary special edition of Nights Out last year, Metronomy founder, frontman and songwriter Joseph Mount returns with a foray into numerous styles and genres. While firmly retaining a recognisably-Metronomy sound, the subtle variety of Metronomy Forever provides an album rich in style and tone.
“Whitsand Bay”, the first full-length track, is replete with the usual Metronomy characteristics. A melodic bassline, slightly tinged with funk, carries the song as Mount sings of heartache over light synth pads and sporadic strumming guitar. Similarly, “The Light” continues Metronomy’s interest in nu-disco, merging warm, syncopated synths and shuffling, minimalist drums. In direct contrast, “Insecurity” rests on an upbeat, fuzzy guitar riff and catchy synth hook that leans heavily into 1990s alt-rock.
Other tracks are more dance-centered. “Salted Caramel Ice Cream”, released as a single, rests on syncopated synth bass plucks and a 12-bar blues structure to create a lively bounciness that is made all the more carefree through its endearingly straightforward lyrics. “She’s sparkling like a fresh glass of Perrier / She’s happy like my birthday / My birthday, oui, tout à fait / She’s like a dream / Salted caramel ice cream.” Questionably named “Sex Emoji” continues this light-hearted feeling with catchy vocal and synth melodies, well-placed backing vocals and silly, though hopefully self-aware, lyricism. The track forms one of the most animated on the album but, harking back to that Nights Out sound, carries an underlying sadness and cynicism.
But not all tracks pull off their intended sensitivity. “Upset My Girlfriend” is a stripped-back ballad, featuring vocals closer to spoken word than singing and heavy use of acoustic guitar. Unfortunately, in recounting a story of youthful thoughtlessness and loss, Mount’s tedious vocals and bland lyricism fail to convey melancholy, feeling more dull than sentimental. But there are certainly more successes than failures. “Lately (Going Spare)” successfully creates a pained nostalgia as Mount’s soft, strained vocals combine with well-placed backing vocals, soft e-piano, crooning saxophone, and horn flourishes. That culminates in a rawness heard all too little across the album.
Where the album falters is its length. Clocking in at just under 55 minutes Metronomy Forever is a lengthy album with some overly long tracks. “The Light” contains fabulous catchy vocal melodies and adds a welcomed change of pace to the album, but has too little substance to warrant its length. “Miracle Rooftop” demonstrates Mount’s love and adeptness of synths – brimming with muted bass lines, oscillating synth pads, and shimmering synth stabs more akin to synthwave – but lacks an engagingness that can successfully be carried across five minutes.
Worse are the unnecessary interludes that intersperse the full-length songs of the album. While past Metronomy albums have included short, instrumental songs as introductions, Metronomy Forever is punctuated with instrumental interludes throughout. “Forever Is a Long Time” represents two and a half minutes of scratchy synth pads. Meanwhile, “Insecure” is little more than a minute of noisy synth risers that provide no catchy rhythm, pleasant melody, or interesting lyricism of the kind that Metronomy do best. Although not abrupt or jarring in the album’s tracklisting, these interludes feel more like an opportunity for Mount to show off his adeptness at playing some new synthesizers, adding nothing to the album other than runtime.
Past these elements of self-indulgence, Metronomy Forever sits firmly as one of Metronomy’s top albums in their growing discography. Feeling something of a spiritual successor to Nights Out – even emulating the style of its intra-album referential song titles – Metronomy Forever has a welcomed freshness, with much of the album representing the band’s best material from their latest few albums.