Metronomy x Haich Ber Na – Right On Time

Album: Small World (Special Edition)

Label: Because Music Ltd.
© 2022 Because Music Ltd.

Unlike many artists who made music inspired by the COVID-19 global pandemic, Metronomy’s Joe Mount didn’t write songs driven by the era’s political climate or the blurry times spent in lockdowns. Instead, on Small World he uses the craving for familiarity, comfort, and optimism sparked by the pandemic as a starting point for sunny-sounding songs that manage to find some deeper truths in what initially seem like platitudes.

Mount may be in an even more philosophical mood than he was on Metronomy’s previous album, Metronomy Forever. Where that album was a sprawling mix of reflective pop songs and synth experiments that made for unpredictable and sometimes uneven listening, this time Mount does more with less. At a trim nine songs, Small World is just over half the size of Metronomy Forever and keeps the focus firmly on Mount’s songwriting skills.

Though his talents as a producer often overshadow his lyrics, memorable and affecting songs have been a part of Metronomy’s DNA since Nights Out, and Small World features some of the most engaging songs of Mount’s career. “Things Will Be Fine” looks back on teenage angst with the kind of hope that comes from experience and plenty of strummy, good-natured hooks; “It’s Good to Be Back” is even more deceptively cheery, pitting bubbly choruses against verses that aren’t quite so certain.

It’s a technique Metronomy also uses cleverly on “Right on Time,” a song that overcomes its doubts with fizzy, disco-tinged refrains that stop just short of cloying. In keeping with the renewed focus on songwriting, Small World’s production and arrangements are restrained and often surprisingly classic, though not stiflingly so; the lush musings of “Life and Death” are Mount’s version of a vintage singer/songwriter ballad, but the tinny drum machine pinning them down is pure Metronomy.

The emphasis on strings of all kinds — acoustic, electric, and bowed — makes for a refreshingly grounded feel on songs like “Loneliness on the Run,” which finds contentment in small things over ambling chord changes that recall Badly Drawn Boy, and gives a heady thrill to “Hold Me Tonight,” a duet with Porridge Radio that packs a rom-com’s worth of meet cutes and happy endings into its bouncy riffs and giddy strings.

In some ways, Small World is the pop album Metronomy have always been capable of making, and in others, it subverts expectations. Writing happy songs that aren’t annoying is a tall order, but Mount and company pull it off with enough flair to make Small World a satisfying microcosm of Metronomy’s music.

© Heather Phares /TiVo