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If 2011’s The English Riviera was Metronomy’s ode to warm summers and new flirtations, Love Letters is their quaint and slightly aloof soundtrack to heartache and loneliness. Yet, underpinned by the subtle cheek of frontman Joseph Mount, Love Letters manages to create a brand of sad music you can dance to.
Mount’s standoffish and slightly fragile tone on his band’s fourth LP isn’t creative withdrawal, but the backbone of Love Letters‘ brutal honesty. “He’s got the most immaculate haircut, and with the right dye and shampoo maybe I could too”, he sings on The Most Immaculate Haircut, in that bittersweet half-serious/half-kidding tone he’s perfected with songs like A Thing For Me and The Look.
Yet Mount isn’t all tongue-in-cheek on album four, in fact the level of honesty and introspection on Love Letters becomes quite moving. There’s a frankness to Mount’s lyrics, despite all the warm retro keyboards and references to ’60s soul and ’70s pop, which litter I’m Aquarius, with its shoop-doop-doop-ahs, as well as the album’s bouncy Motown-esque title track.
“We all need company”, Mount posits on Call Me. “Promise that you’ll follow me, I couldn’t stand to be alone”, he pleads on Monstrous. “Never wanted, never needed”, he laments behind a plucked guitar on Never Wanted. The melodic hooks on Love Letters might not be Metronomy’s strongest, but Mount’s lyrics have now reached an inviting and emotive peak.
Recorded in an all analog studio in Hackney, London, Love Letters also highlights the stylistic nuances and myriad of pre-Y2K influences which have made Metronomy one of indie pop’s more unique groups. Instrumental cut Boy Racers is a funky pastiche of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the watery synths of Kraftwerk, the krautrock precision of Neu! and the bounce of The B-52s. Intertwined guitar melodies and distant background vocals give Month of Sundays a psych-rock feel, whilst I’m Aquarius revives some gorgeous old synths behind a crisp drum machine.
Love Letters moves at a slower pace than Metronomy’s bedroom-glitch debut Pip Paine (Pay the £5000 You Owe), their 2008 looping dance-rocker Nights Out, and its more refined alt-pop sibling, The English Riviera. It requests greater concentration from listeners so that Mount can delve a little deeper into questions of love, loss, time, and expectation. It’s also the coldest of Metronomy’s albums to date, but also the one which best highlights Mount’s cheeky and introverted pop escapism.