Release Date: Jan 10, 2012
Record label: Island / Def Jam
Snow Patrol are known for songs so swooningly sensitive they can make Coldplay sound like the Sex Pistols. Now, perhaps inspired by the U.K.'s dubstep craze, they've added a few dance beats to their beige guitar anthems. It's a strange move but done tastefully; the title track's terse, frantic pulse is a welcome change of pace. Otherwise, Snow Patrol fall back to the blandly inoffensive safe zone – though at least they sound a little brighter: Much of Fallen Empires is a guardedly optimistic list of singer Gary Lightbody's aspirations, from pensive road trips in which "the engine's more a sigh than a scream" to World Cup glory for his Irish countrymen.
Grey’s Anatomy fans still remember these Irish alt-rockers as The Band That Made Izzie Sob on Denny’s Deathbed. But it’s been six years and two albums since their anthemic ”Chasing Cars” appeared on the show and helped 2006’s Eyes Open go platinum. True, they just bowed their new single, ”New York,” on Grey’s. But with their sixth full-length, Fallen Empires, Snow Patrol are hoping to make an emotional impact that resonates beyond the realm of McSteamy, if that’s all right with McYou.
The sixth studio album from the moody Glasgow-via-Belfast outfit finds the group adding a dash of electronica into its already wintry mix of confessional late-November alt-rock and one-fist-pumping, mini-arena pop. Opening with the one-two punch of “I’ll Never Let Go” and “Called Out in the Dark,” Fallen Empires establishes an expansive vista of sound early on, bathing fairly simple melodies in waves of fastidious loops and sparse percussion. The band’s penchant for crafting emotionally charged, if not entirely memorable, midtempo Brit-pop anthems still dominates, but standout cuts like the gorgeous ballads “The Garden Rules” and “Those Distant Bells,” as well as the surprisingly immediate title cut, prove that Snow Patrol still have the potential to hit the sweet spot between U2's stadium baiting, Coldplay's icy elegance, and Elbow's art school-infused, north country soul.
Snow Patrol seem to have their hearts in the right place. They’ve covered Low and Bright Eyes, name-checked Sufjan Stevens and spent formative time on Belle & Sebastian’s old label. In interviews promoting their sixth album Fallen Empires, frontman Gary Lightbody said all the right things about experimenting and growing their sound.
If you're a Snow Patrol fan and worried about all this talk of their moving in a new experimental electronic direction, have no fear. They're still the same vaguely indie inoffensive stadium rock band they've always been, but now with a light sprinkling of dance beats and synths. The transformation isn't nearly as dramatic as the band itself seems to think, but the new direction is a good one.
Their sixth album sees Gary Lightbody's anthemic rockers take a leftfield shift apparently inspired by LCD Soundsystem's The Sound of Silver, U2's Achtung Baby and Arcade Fire's The Suburbs – unit-shifters all, so it's experimentation within the context of arena rock. Nevertheless, in come uncharacteristic four-to-the-floor beats (Called Out in the Dark), Sisters of Mercy-style, choir-laden epic goth (The Weight of Love) and simple, sublime pop (The Symphony). After suffering writer's block, Lightbody has found plenty of brooding darkness for the title track, Those Distant Bells, and This Isn't Everything You Are, a doomed love song with a tragic twist.
What great irony it is that in the year that Coldplay and Snow Patrol try to reinvent and reinvigorate their unit-shifting, festival headlining MOR-indie anthemics into something that's both more subversive and contemporary, U2 reissue Achtung Baby to show them how it's done (or at least was done in 1991) and [everybody forgets that they hate them for a while] (http://www.metacritic.com/music/achtung-baby-super-deluxe). Rightly so too. According to its press release Snow Patrol's sixth album takes its inspiration from that very album as well LCD Soundsystem's Sound of Silver and Arcade Fire's The Suburbs.
The world of UK guitar music has changed in the decade since Snow Patrol signed their first major-label contract. A passing glance at the state of British mainstream radio neatly illustrates how it's shifted for bands of their ilk: When Snow Patrol inked a deal with Polydor's Fiction imprint in 2002, Steve Lamacq still lorded over evenings on Radio 1. His "Evening Session" show was where I first taped songs by bands like Idlewild, Snow Patrol, and Seafood.
Perhaps in an effort to shake their designation as post-Coldplay dad-rock, Snow Patrol have dabbled in dance beats – an odd pairing with Gary Lightbody's bruised voice. "The Symphony" begins with a beat so insipid it sounds designed to make toddlers chuckle. Choruses range from slushy ("Oh you will never know how much I love you so") to barren ("This is all you ever asked for, this is all you'll get"), but sometimes there's a shard of sincere sentiment: on "Lifening", Lightbody the Bangor lad sings, "This is all I ever wanted from life: Ireland in the World Cup, either north or south." .
Prior to the release of Fallen Empires, the sixth album from Snow Patrol, the band asked fans to “keep an open mind” to the new sonic direction of their music. Whenever a group makes such a statement, it usually means things won’t be that different. Sure, there may be some “electronic” influences or “darker” lyrics, but musicians that truly revamp themselves rarely say anything about it until after the album is released (see: Radiohead) and even then they’re usually mum on the subject (see: Destroyer).
Since successfully breaking through to the mainstream with “Chasing Cars” and “Run,” alternative rock band Snow Patrol seems to have been unfairly pigeon-holed as melancholic balladeers. While many could easily write the band off as such, their latest effort, Fallen Empires includes some surprising musical twists and turns. The Northern Ireland rockers explore acquainted themes detailing the convolutions of living and loving, which are structured in highly seductive melodies.
3BALLMTY “Inténtalo” (Fonovisa) Atop the Billboard Regional Mexican album chart, hovering above releases by the banda singer Jenni Rivera, the ranchera pioneer Vicente Fernández, the Tejano band Siggno, and even a crossover “MTV Unplugged” album by the longtime genre heroes Los Tigres del Norte, sits “Inténtalo” by 3ballMTY, an album like none of the others. Regional Mexican music tends to innovate in slow waves, or at least isn’t so quick to phase out its elders or its traditional modes. By those measurements the leaps forward on “Inténtalo” feel huge, ostentatious and potentially extremely disruptive.
A sixth album that leans on U2 for inspiration, but ultimately finds its own footing. Mike Haydock 2011 Snow Patrol’s sixth studio album is billed as a change in direction – but don’t get flustered. While Fallen Empires contains a few new musical tricks, it would be an exaggeration to label this a revolution in sound. Snow Patrol are often mentioned in the same breath as Coldplay, and it’s not surprising: both bands grew up with U2 dominating their horizons, and both have been inspired by their gutsy, catchy pop.