Thursday, 14 April 2011

Recommended music: 'The English Riviera' by Metronomy

It's quite an achievement to make an album about, and inspired by, his childhood in Totnes (The English Riviera) sound like a record that belongs in the sunny and stylish French Riviera, but this is what Joe Mount and his band have accomplished.

From the opening title track - a short instrumental with the sound of seagulls - the atmosphere is set. If you're English of course, seagulls will invariable make you think of faded seaside towns and childhood holidays, but as Joe has pointed out 'Seagulls are everywhere...Cannes, they're in Miami, they're in LA. For some people it's like...Muscle Beach and rollerblading'. The song segues into 'We Broke Free', a great early track with Joe promising 'I'll take you out round town, I swear you'll never witness anything quite as fine'. Then 'Everything Goes My Way' shows a new level of sophistication for the band, as Joe performs a stylish duet with Veronica Falls singer Roxanne Clifford.

'The Look' then drifts into view - I didn't realise until I heard it in the context of this record how much the fading in keyboard at the start sounds like an old-fashioned end of the pier Wurlitzer. This is followed by 'She Wants' with a groovy retro bassline and a very '80s feel (and a bit that sounds like The Police). 'Trouble', like a number of tracks on the album, has some nice guitar work - this track in particular sounds the most band-focussed, a traditional mix of drums, bass & guitar that Joe wouldn't have achieved had he stayed holed up in his bedroom studio on his own (apart from the weird Sparky's Magic Piano vocals in the middle, that is!).

Lyrically 'The Bay' is probably the most direct in referencing the south coast - 'This isn't Paris, this isn't London...if you want to go I'll take you back one day', all set to one of the best tunes on the album. 'Loving Arm' is more reminiscent of earlier work, with simple keyboards and slightly obscure lyrics (what exactly is a Loving Arm?), while 'Corinne' mixes a quirky keyboard pattern with tales of a broken heart. Then 'Some Written' provides a moment of calm (and is that a flute?) before building up to a climax (and is that a kazoo??).  Finally 'Love Underlined' takes our hand and whisks us onto the dancefloor for a quick spin before closing time.

Having been a bit disappointed by the previous record 'Nights Out' (and all the accompanying superlatives from the NME et al) this one more than lives up to expectations. The quirks and squelches of its predecessor have been smoothed out while still retaining a personality and a sense of fun. Equally the previous dancefloor focus has been reigned in to produce a much warmer record that is suitable for anytime listening - day or night. There's a certain timelessness to the album - it sounds a bit 70's, a bit '80s, but also current, in a way that isn't likely to fall quickly out of fashion. It's only April, but this could already be your soundtrack for the summer.

You can get a free download of 'She Wants' below.

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