It’s a striking cover, puffy pink cloud-like framing of psychedelic chubby album title letters with a worn-out effect similar to a hipstagram filter for “faded jeans” or some such. “That looks psychedelic,” I said to myself.
Upon a test listen, no fuzzy guitars (or sitars), no heavy drums, no cavernous echo, no wah wah. My ears were expecting Pink Floyd or Blue Cheer or Deep Purple or some other adjective and color combination. I guess I had to take this album on it’s own terms. How refreshing! And with no expectations, I was drawn in. I quickly knew I had to get a copy.
Love Letters is a warm album, perhaps due to the all-analog setting of London’s famed Toe Rag Studios. Many songs feature vintage-sounding drum machine effects, and the warm production bears up to the thick, modern bass, acoustic and (mostly clean) electric guitars and occasional horns. But doing the heavy lifting musically are the keyboards, which sound easily more than 30 years old, and above it all the reedy vocals of Joseph Mount. Not a great singer maybe, but just right.
The songs themselves are where we most closely approach psychedelia, which is just how I like it. Some effective use of falsetto (a la Damon Albarn), intricate keyboard and vocal melody lines, and hypnotic rhythms are spiced up with funky proto-new wave dance rhythms on several tunes.
Overall, this is a terrific full-album listen for a lazy afternoon or small-ish get together. As if to prove my point, the track “The Immaculate Haircut” features cricket and gentle water splashing sound effects. Kick back and enjoy this one.
Nine years together has paid off for Metronomy’s live show as well. Earlier this month at Neumos, all dressed in slick white suits, the band pushed a relentlessly tight and upbeat dance rhythm that had the Seattle crowd dancing – really, hopping up and down. It was a full room! A treat in their set was the unexpected appearance of “Boy Racers”, the super-funky instrumental from Love Letters. I swear they’ve mined 80s video game themes for this party starter.
After all is said and done, I still think the Love Letters album cover is a bit misleading, but Metronomy is a band that delivers on their promise of a good time. – (7/10)
(Abe Beeson is the host of Evening Jazz weeknights from 7:30-midnight on 88.5fm KPLU. He’s infrequently also heard on fellow public radio station KEXP, where he hosted The Live Room live local show from 1993 to 2002.)