Metronomy on “Metronomy Forever” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, May 29th, 2024  

Metronomy on “Metronomy Forever”

Super Happy

Sep 26, 2019 Metronomy Photography by Gregoire Alexandre Bookmark and Share

Joseph Mount is content. He’s happily partnered, with two young children. He’s recently moved from Paris to the Kentish countryside of England, where he and his family enjoy a bucolic, unharried existence. He helped produce one of the best reviewed albums of last year, Robyn’s Honey, and earlier this year celebrated the 10th anniversary of the enduring second Metronomy record, Nights Out with its reissue. Now he’s back with a new album, his sixth as Metronomy (his bandmates occasionally play on the records, but mainly just join him on tour). Called, appropriately, Metronomy Forever, it might be his finest yet.

I meet Mount at the Public Hotel on New York’s Lower East Side, where he stayed on a recent trip to promote the album. Over a glass of wine, he confesses that he wondered if he was feeling a little too content when making the new record.

He’d spent the past four years working with Robyn on Honey, an album of immense catharsis for the Swedish pop star. She wrote it with fellow producers and songwriters including Mount as a means of recovering from a breakup and the loss of her dear friend and producer Christian Falk. When it came time for Mount to return to his own music, he worried that he didn’t have his own deep well of trauma to draw from.

“The general consensus in art is that painful stuff makes the best art,” he says, sipping on a red. “It’s something which I think can be true, to a certain extent. I think some of the best stuff that I’ve done, the more interesting, would’ve been when I was young enough that I was still in miserable relationships or whatever. And I think definitely if you look at classic records, that’s a sort of thread throughout them, like breakup records are really big. But I just think it’s something you have to sort of confront when you get a bit older because I’ve got children, and I’m super happy, and…I don’t have any bad kind of stuff like that going on.”

Mount is not impervious to life’s challenges of course; he acknowledges, smiling, that there is an “underlying sadness in life.” He may not have had a huge tragedy to work through, but Metronomy Forever is still threaded with melancholy and introspection (track titles include “Insecurity” and “Insecure”) and is richer for the breadth of emotions it taps into. As Mount says, “you can be super happy and still be a bit despairing.”

The way he writes his own songs is different to how he writes them with or for other people. It almost always starts with the music for him, whereas with Robyn, they’d often begin with a lyric. “I think I realized from working with her that it’s not about the preciseness of a lyric, it’s not about the literary perfection of it,” he says. “If it means something to the person that’s saying it, then that’s all that matters.”

Consider “Lately,” Metronomy Forever‘s first single and its emotional centrepiece. There’s the chorus, which might be romantic or depressing, depending on your vantage point: “Lately, I call you/When I do nothing, oh,” while the upshot is pragmatic: “Well, that is love/Yeah, that is love and it’s hard to do/It’s a job for two.” Extra layers of meaning arrive in the music, in the searching synths and grungy guitars that are at once nostalgic and immediate, mimicking a long-term relationship in motion.

Mount has always excelled at mood and he covers a lot of ground here (literally, too, across 17 tracks), from the wistful chords of “Whitsand Bay” to the playful “Salted Caramel Ice Cream” and “Sex Emoji” to dusky, brooding instrumentals such as “Lying Low” and “Forever is a Long Time.”

The way in which albums are listened to (or not listened to) now, thanks to the likes of Spotify, was at the forefront of Mount’s mind. He wanted Metronomy Forever to play like the radio, or Spotify’s Discover Weekly function. “I wanted to make something that felt like some sort of reflection of music now, which to me is not about necessarily saying something,” he says. The tracks, varying in tone and texture, are arranged in the manner of a mixtape, yet as an album Metronomy Forever still sounds completely cohesive, and much more considered than how Mount describes it.

As a teen, Mount was a drummer in rock bands before he discovered synths. As Metronomy, he’s been active for 20 years and each of his albums has been a departure from the last, traversing squelchy electronics, yacht rock, scuzzy psychedelia, lo-fi soul, old-school funk, and more. He’s pleased with how his audiences have been conditioned to expect the unexpected from him.

“You realize it’s super unusual to be able to do that kind of stuff, and to not confuse people,” he says. “Already I realize that [Metronomy is] this thing which has kind of outlived The Beatles’ career. You kind of start realizing like, ‘Oh actually, it’s kind of unusual,’ and you start to realize that what you do is kind of unique, and has a certain value because it’s unique.”

There has been swelling interest in Mount, the producer and songwriter, following his work on Honey. He recently produced a track for Jessie Ware (“Adore You”) and has been writing with Klas Åhlund, a fellow producer on Honey. The immersive process of working with another musician across an album is appealing, he says (hi, Rihanna, if you’re reading), but in practical terms he’s contracted to another record as Metronomy and says he’s creatively committed, too.

“Sometimes I have these fantasies of like, ‘Wow, what if you stopped [Metronomy]?’ And then tomorrow, you become like Joseph Mount, and you start making music, what would that music be like? And so the joke I like to make is that I’d call myself José Mount, and I’d do a solo album, and it would be kind of Rat Rack swing standards, like ‘My Way,’ that kind of thing. So I think about that, and then it’s like, ‘That’d be a really fucking cool Metronomy record as well!’”

While most of Metronomy Forever was written in Paris, the bulk of it was recorded at Mount’s new home studio in Kent which had a huge impact on its sound, he says. Witnessing the gradual changing of the seasons has had the effect of slowing Mount down, too. “I spend quite a lot of time just looking around, and thinking, and then cutting back stuff that’s growing too much, that kind of thing,” he says. “And just spending time with my kids.”

Mount’s last album, 2016’s Summer ‘08, reflected on that heady time 11 years ago when Nights Out struck a nerve with (mostly British) youth and made Mount a darling of the British indie scene. He has spoken before about wanting to ensure that his music always resonates with young people. I wonder if that feels harder as he gets older.

“Everywhere we play, there’s young people there,” he says. “Now I worry that maybe they’re waiting for the next band, and they probably are…. No teenager’s going to look at me and be like, ‘That guy, he’s my idol. He’s speaking for me.’ But I think maybe at least musically, people can hopefully still connect with it.”

In many ways, Mount is a contradictory figure. At once indifferent to his success and attached to it. Claiming to make an album that’s not really “making any sort of statement”, when it comes across as rather more deliberate than that. And simultaneously proud of his longevity and concerned about his relevancy.

Similarly, calling the new album Metronomy Forever might be read as tongue-in-cheek or earnest. Whatever the case, and whether calculated or not, it’s Mount’s most consistently engaging record to date, one that’s likely to delight old fans and yes, keep the kids interested too.

“I feel really good about it,” he says. “I feel like it’s kind of a bit unusual this year, I think in the context of what’s happening now, it’s something that’s not particularly overrepresented.”

“I enjoy listening to it, and I think it’s a significant one in my catalog,” he adds. He’s smirking, but this much he knows to be true.

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