WE ALL HAVE that album that relates to some of the best memories of our lives. For me, British Indietronica band Metronomy produced that album. Despite attending university in Wales, The English Riviera soundtracked my three years of higher education, and subsequently became by favourite album of all time. Sure, it might not be Revolver, Pet Sounds or Dark Side of the Moon, but it stands on its own as a perfectly formed piece of Indie story telling.
Looking back at Metronomy’s past releases, it’s clear that The English Riviera is a departure from the bands past work as a trio. While Gabriel Stebbings contributed to many of the sessions for Riviera, it’s drummer Anna Prior and bassist Olugbenga Adelekan who appeared in the majority of promotion. The strong electronic elements found on past releases Pip Paine (Pay Back The £5000 You Owe) and Nights Out are left out in many parts of the album, save for front man Joseph Mount’s squealing organs and synths, most notable on ‘Loving Arm’ and the closing track ‘Love Underlined’.
Instead, there’s plenty of fresh instrumentation on this record, in the form of acoustic and electric guitars and some choice use of percussion. But while the production may have cleaned things up, there are some habits that just don’t die. Metronomy’s funk bass lines are forever evident throughout the 11 tracks, with some of the best work on tracks ‘She Wants’ and the subtle yet powerful ‘We Broke Free’. Then there are the vocals, which, while expertly handled by Joseph Mount for 90% of the record, also receive treatment from Roxanne Clifford on the brilliant ‘Everything Goes My Way’.
Then we have the vocals. Thematically, Riviera doesn’t land too far from Nights Out. There are plenty of tracks about love, such as ‘Trouble’, and all the problems it holds, while there are also tracks about freedom, getting away from it all and well… the beach. Joseph Mount’s vocals can be melancholic, or portray longing beautifully, but can also switch to fit a pop song. As so many of Metronomy’s songs are upbeat, or drenched in pop sensibility, Mount’s diverse and wonderful vocal performances are always key. These themes are often reflected in the music itself, such as on the track ‘The Look’, a sunny number that features some great lead keys and some light guitar courtesy of Oscar Cash. It’s a lovely song that musically manages to a summer feel without any of that cringe we’ve seen so many times.
But perhaps one of the most noticeable things about Riviera in terms of Metronomy’s development is that some of their best material can be found on this record. In the past, the band had produced some decent tunes; ‘Holiday’, ‘Radio Ladio’, ‘A Thing For Me’… But Riviera is where they stepped their game up. Take the opening track ‘We Broke Free’, and it’s intro, ‘The English Riviera’. As the songs builds up with layer upon layer of synthetic and organic noise, Joseph Mount’s vocals repeat the same simple phrase, which somehow enforcing this ambiguous point into the fabric of the music. The brilliant ‘The Bay’ is Metronomy’s most radio friendly song, and with its huge chorus and catchy bass riffs, it’s not hard to see why. The transition from ‘Some Written’ to ‘Love Underlined’ shows the band effortlessly changing up rhythms and blending the songs into each other without so much as a sideways glance. Seriously, this is pure genius.
It’s hard not to like The English Riviera. With its fresh, clean sound, its brilliant hooks and Joseph Mount’s own likeable demeanour, it’s near as damn it the perfect Indie Pop album. Tracks like ‘The Bay’, ‘The Look’, ‘Corinne’ and ‘Everything Goes My Way’ and sheer brilliance, and will worm your way willingly into your brain. Maybe it’s the memories talking, but I genuinely think this album is damn near perfection.
We don’t often associate Metronomy with the greats… maybe it’s time we did.
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