From the glitchy instrumental electro of debut Pip Paine (Pay The £5000 You Owe) to the follow-up nu-rave concept album Nights Out to the avant-garde pop of the Mercury Prize-nominated The English Riviera, experimental quartet Metronomy have built a career on wrong-footing listeners at every turn, thanks to their penchant for the gloriously wonky.
Recorded at Hackney’s all analogue Toe Rag Studios, their fourth album, Love Letters, is no less idiosyncratic, drifting from bittersweet synth-led R&B to brassy Motown to soft-rock balladry over ten typically quirky tracks steeped in an equal amount of romanticism and melancholy.
First made available via a stargazing app which would only allow fans to hear the track once they’d discovered its title’s constellation, the suitably starry-eyed blend of shoop-shoop vocals, hushed beats and twinking synths of lead single “I’m Aquarius” is arguably Metronomy’s finest work to date.
There’s a similarly retro-soul feel to the almost-as-sublime “Love Letters,” which opens with a mournful jazz trumpet solo before exploding into life with an inspired mix of toy piano keys and brill-building harmonies that could be mistaken for classic girl group The Crystals.
Elsewhere, “Boy Racers,” a playful melting pot of Italo disco, krautrock and Hammer Horror, and the brilliantly-named “The Most Immaculate Haircut,” a tale of coiffeur envy set to a jangly indie-pop backdrop, should also help cement frontman Joseph Mount’s reputation as one of the UK’s most weird and wonderful musical mavericks.
The sheer variation on offer is undoubtedly impressive, although the plodding space-funk of closer “Never Wanted” and the aimless proggy leanings of “Month Of Sundays” prove that the recent Michel Gondry collaborators don’t always hit the target.
But while Love Letters’ eccentricities means Metronomy are unlikely to build significantly on the surprise success of their previous effort, it’s still a consistently enjoyable record which suggests they’re perfectly content to remain an acquired taste.