Its first record in two years, "Fallen Empires" blends Snow Patrol's
specific brand of thoughtful pop-rock with some electronic influences.
The resulting album optimistically handles maturation and the journey from regret to embracing imperfection, only to be set back by the occasional self-indulgent, plodding love note from vocalist/songwriter Gary Lightbody.
Fortunately, the incorporation of playful melodies and eccentric synths leave impression enough to warm even the coldest heart. Jacknife Lee returns for the fourth time to produce, consequently yielding the best-sounding Snow Patrol album yet. Singles "Called Out in the Dark" and "This Isn't Everything You Are" respectively introduce the band's new sound and revisit its old.
Keyboardist Tom Simpson is largely responsible for both, being a driving force in building the synth tones on which this disc is built; however, Snow Patrol gives no inclination of complacency. The band is tighter than ever, with Nathan Connolly's bold, almost experimental style justifying his title as lead guitarist. Lightbody's candied vocals are no exception, but it seems time has weathered away at his vocals a bit, allowing him a generally less abrasive tone.
Where albums past have focused more on rock and volume, this time around, the group lingers on the slow stuff. Through much of the album, the members waste no time with layered meanings or metaphor, opting instead to cling to the literal. This practice makes an appearance in "The Garden Rules" with the lines "There's the river, there's your house, and there's the church / And there's us years ago" leading into a countless recitation of the chorus: "Oh you will never know how much I love you so."
Were the themes of this album less apparent — aging perceptions of love, specifically — the unembellished lyrics might be less endearing. This act of blissful, blunt reminiscence comes nowhere close to sabotaging the beautiful collaborative inclusion of folk artist Lissie, whose voice complements five songs on "Fallen Empires," including the one mentioned above.
I wouldn't call "Fallen Empires" a great album. It is instead an exceptionally poignant collection of well-produced, super-catchy songs by a single artist occasionally interrupted by a boring (but still well-produced) song.