Led by multi-instrumentalist and producer Joseph Mount, Metronomy grew from a scrappy, lo-fi side project into one of the more creative acts mixing rock and electronic music. Drawing on influences ranging from Devo and David Bowie to N.E.R.D. and Pavement, Mount established Metronomy as an equally catchy and off-kilter act with 2006's Pip Paine (Pay the £5000 You Owe). The project's later albums, such as 2011's Mercury Prize-nominated The English Riviera, were smoother and more sophisticated, but still incorporated unexpected elements that ranged from the Motown and blue-eyed soul homages of 2014's Love Letters to the retro-futurism of 2019's Metronomy Forever. Named after the musical term for the measurement of time by an instrument, Mount started Metronomy in 1999 as a side project to the other bands he played with, using an old computer that his father gave him to record songs. Metronomy's first full-band lineup also included keyboardist/saxophonist Oscar Cash and keyboardist/bassist Gabriel Stebbing. Prior to Metronomy, Mount and Stebbing played together in bands such as the Upsides, a pop group the pair described as "the original Busted," and the Customers, with whom they played in university. When his cousin Cash joined Metronomy, it became the trio's main project. The band earned buzz for their engaging live shows as well as official and unofficial remixes of tracks by Gorillaz, Architecture in Helsinki, Sebastien Tellier, Kate Nash, U2, and Britney Spears. After a DJ gig in Brighton, Mount connected with the founder of Holiphonic Records, which released Metronomy's debut single, "You Could Easily Have Me," in late 2005 and the full-length Pip Paine (Pay the £5000 You Owe) in June 2006. That year, Metronomy signed to Because Music; in 2007, the single Radio Ladio became their first and only release on its Need Now Future imprint. The label also issued 2008's Nights Out, which introduced their eclectic sound to a wider audience thanks to singles such as Heartbreaker and My Heart Rate Rapid. In 2009, Stebbing left Metronomy to focus on his other project, Your Twenties. Bassist Gbenga Adelekan and former Lightspeed Champion drummer Anna Prior joined the fold for 2011's The English Riviera, which boasted a sleeker sound than the band's previous work. It was a commercial and critical success, reaching number 28 on the U.K. charts, selling more than 60,000 copies, and earning them a Mercury Prize nomination. Mount and crew went in a very different direction for Metronomy's fourth album, Love Letters. Taking inspiration from acts such as the Supremes, the Zombies, and Sly & the Family Stone, the band recorded at Toe Rag, an all-analog London studio frequented by indie rock bands such as the White Stripes and the Cribs. The singles I'm Aquarius and Love Letters -- which boasted a video directed by Michel Gondry -- signaled the album's mix of vintage warmth and cutting-edge pop ahead of its March 2014 release. The album peaked at number seven on the U.K. albums chart, their highest position yet. For Metronomy's next album, Mount changed course again, booking a studio just outside Paris and writing and recording a set of songs by himself within two weeks. The funky Summer 08, which reflected on the exuberance of the Nights Out era and featured collaborations with Mix Master Mike, Erol Alkan, and Robyn, arrived in July 2016. Mount then worked with Robyn on her acclaimed 2018 album Honey, co-writing and producing several of its songs. Following Mount's move from Paris to the English countryside, Metronomy returned in September 2019 with Metronomy Forever, one of the band's most eclectic albums yet.
© Heather Phares /TiVo
© Heather Phares /TiVo
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Electronic - Released March 10, 2014 | Because Music Ltd.
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Given the critical and commercial success of The English Riviera, Metronomy could have easily spent another album or two expanding on its polished, erudite pop. However, they're too mercurial a band to do the obvious thing. On Love Letters, they abandon their previous album's sleek precision for fuzzy analog charm. Metronomy recorded the album at London's Toe Rag studio, a fixture of British indie rock, and Joe Mount and company imbue these songs with the room's warmth and intimacy. Musically and emotionally, Love Letters is rawer than what came before it, trading breezy synth pop for insistent psych-rock and soul influences. The main carryover from The English Riviera is the increasing sophistication, and melancholy, in Mount's songwriting. Previously, his best songs were playful and ever so slightly emotional; on Love Letters, he flips this formula, penning songs filled with lost love, regrets, and just enough wit to sting. The album opens with three striking portraits of heartbreak: "The Upsetter" equals its distance with its urgency, capping it all with an achingly gorgeous guitar solo. "I'm Aquarius" traces the fallout of a star-crossed relationship impressionistically, with girl group-style "shoop doop"s almost overpowering Mount's reasons why it didn't work ("you're a novice/I'm a tourist"), as if memories of his ex crowd out everything else. "Monstrous" turns Metronomy's signature jaunty keyboards Baroque and paranoid, with a doomy organ that closes in when Mount sings "hold on tight to everything you love," and a counterpoint that captures the way loneliness and heartbreak circle each other. These songs set the stage perfectly for the desperate romance of "Love Letters" itself, which updates punchy, late-'60s Motown drama so well that it's easy to imagine the Four Tops singing it. Here and on "Month of Sundays"'s acid rock vistas, Metronomy's nods to the past feel more like footnotes than following too closely in anyone's footsteps. However, they sound more comfortable with their own quirks as well, giving more muscle to "Boy Racers" than their previous instrumentals, and more depth to "Reservoir," which is the closest it gets to a typical Metronomy song (if there is such a thing anymore). Confessional and insular, Love Letters is the work of a band willing to take pop success on their own terms and reveal a different -- but just as appealing -- side of their artistry in the process. © Heather Phares /TiVo