Metronomy – The English Riviera

A pop album with clever twists and a laid back listening experience.

Joseph Mount, the man behind Metronomy, hails from Totnes in Devon. You’d never have guessed it from the locationless indie-disco of his earlier music, but the third Metronomy album sees him carefully hone in on the charms of southwest England. The market town in question is reimagined as (a different/fantasy) the English Riviera, a romantic destination where magic happens – and it’s apparent from the get-go, with the sound of cawing seagulls opening the album’s first song.

With this relocation comes a new sound too, a further excursion into Mount’s fascinating brain. The restless pace of 2008’s Nights Out is tempered with frequent moments of calm, and the insistent top layer of squelchy falsetto replaced with more modest, lithe hooks. She Wants is newly sentimental, adding a personal touch to the more generalised feelings the songs had previously explored, while Everything Goes My Way has a female lead vocal and the glamour of a John Hughes film from the 1980s. The latter is deliciously summery, but one of the album’s weakest for how uncompelling its structure is.

The lowlights on The English Riviera are thankfully rare. Trouble’s tart vocals head wistfully into a swaying doo-wop beat, with typically smart lyrics such as the cute tautology of “There’s a tear in your eye / And there’s no ‘I’ in tear”. And that brings it back to the familiar; Mount’s strengths as a songwriter come from his willingness to show off, however much he may be aware of this.

Love Underlined is incredible, a standout song that hypnotically rises through urgent, insistent and twisted rhythms that start out at odds with each other and eventually come together into a giant four-to-the-floor chorus. The Bay, a theme tune of sorts for the album’s setting, sees the band taking on Daft Punk for energy levels – and more than matching that winsome fervour. “This isn’t Paris, this isn’t London, this isn’t Berlin, this isn’t Hong Kong, this isn’t Tokyo,” Mount sings charmingly, glamorising his hometown through summery, lightly roughed-up choruses.

If Nights Out was the soundtrack to an all-hours party that threatened to blow the speakers, The English Riviera is the music in the ears of a restless insomniac. The type of punch Metronomy now pack is differently varied, and instead of relying on catchy melodies, its excitement and originality is now more broadly sourced.

Presumably digital but surprisingly pleasant and mellow sound. Not fatiguing and not at all what I normally think of as digital. Good French pressing and mastered by Nilz at the Exchange in London who sadly died the same year this was released. His great mastering lives on!

Barry White – Can’t get enough – Audio Fidelity

Audio Fidelity continue in their quest to bring the highest quality sound and vinyl releases to those records that are otherwise ignored by the Audiophile community. Ie instead of the same reissues of jazz and classic rock titles by the other labels Audio Fidelity cast their nets wider to bring you gems like Kate Bush and Barry White.

Barry White’s third solo album, Can’t Get Enough was an enormous transatlantic hit and the one that cemented his reputation in the UK.

White’s was true music of the masses. With its lush orchestral arrangements and his sultry vocal, the seven-track Can’t Get Enough is his most accomplished work. All the songs could be either for long term-relationships or the first flush of a new romance: Oh Love, Well We Finally Made It; Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe; I Love You More Than Anything (In This World Girl).

Along with Isaac Hayes and Marvin Gaye, White was in the top tier of soulful bedroom troubadours of the 70s. However, while Gaye and Hayes often introduced spiritual or social dimensions into their work, White was happy to ruminate exclusively on the subject of love. This has sometimes led to his material being undervalued, while the others have been exalted.

White’s manifesto was laid out in the album’s first three tracks: the beautiful instrumental opening of Mellow Mood, Part I segueing into the commercial pop perfection of You’re the First, the Last, My Everything and then into the 10-minute boudoir symphony of I Can’t Believe You Love Me.

You’re the First, the Last, My Everything was a classic number one. White’s praise of simple love struck a chord; “We got it together, didn’t we, we definitely got our thing together, isn’t that nice?” he drawls in his unmistakable bass tones. The instrumental break with Gene Page’s soaring strings is about as life affirming as music gets. It is still a guaranteed floor-filler all these years later, with one foot in country, the other in northern soul.

Can’t Get Enough… reached number four in the UK top 20 and became a rather ubiquitous addition to mid-70s households. It is a superb example of White’s craft. There were always strong morals behind his love raps, often espousing the joys of monogamy and doing right by your woman. Given all the love shenanigans going on here, it comes as little surprise that it has been said that more children have been conceived to White’s music than that of any other artist.

The sound quality is superb! The orchestration is smooth and sublime. Each instrument stands on its own with great separation and decay. Really a joy to listen to. Thanks Kevin Gray!

The record is packaged in a  really thick glossy cardboard sleeve with all the songs’ lyrics on the inner sleeve. Release your own inner walrus!