‘Empires’ effort revisits tropes

by John Anderson

Courtesy of Chuff Media

When Snow Patrol finally broke out in the U.S. in 2004 with a re-release of its third studio album “Final Straw,” the band featured haunting instrumentals, catchy beats and the memorable lyrics and vocal work of Gary Lightbody. These elements gave the band a unique, yet accessible sound, catapulting the band to success and onto make-out playlists everywhere. In November of last year, the band released its sixth LP “Fallen Empires” in the U.K.; Island Def Jam began distributing the album in the U.S. earlier this month.

After the third listen, it becomes abundantly clear: This album grows on the listener. Everything blends together on the first spin, but with each re-listen, more of the things that made Snow Patrol insanely popular begin to stand out. The band manages to utilize the musical aspects of its previously successful music without making the album sound like a rehash.

The opening track, “I’ll Never Let Go,” is lyrically simple, but it’s catchy, has some excellent vocal work from folk singer Lissie and Snow Patrol’s characteristically complex instrumental layering, giving it a deep sound. “Called Out in the Dark” is poppy and skippable, but “The Weight of Love” is worth a listen. The song is reminiscent of a “Final Straw”-era hit with a Franz Ferdinand-esque beat.

The large chorus vocal accompaniment that really ices the cake in some Snow Patrol hits makes an appearance in the albums single “This Isn’t Everything You Are.” While the vocal work is good, the lyrics are a bit trite and prompt memories of The Fray’s fad years back. “The Garden Rules” features an excellent bass riff, though the rest of the song is average. “Berlin” steps away from the intricate, often overwhelming instrumentals Snow Patrol usually uses in its songs, instead opting for a more minimalist sound that comes off as rather quaint.

“Fallen Empires” is not a bad album, it’s not even disappointing, yet it is lacking something. Most noticeably missing is a “Somewhere a Clock is Ticking” or a “Set the Fire to the Third Bar.” It’s missing a song that evokes a blinding emotional response, something deeply intimate or sweepingly intense. It’s missing a song that transports listeners to another plane, puts them in another place consistently and effectively; which is admittedly a bit acid-y, but was one of the greatest things about some of Snow Patrol’s previous work. It is hard to lose oneself in any of these songs; they are all easy to imagine in a run-of-the-mill romantic drama.

For die-hard Snow Patrol fans, give “Fallen Empires” some time. Everyone else should consider looking to “Final Straw” or “Eyes Open” before picking up this album.

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