Saturday, January 21, 2012

Snow Patrol – “Fallen Empires”



Tackling Snow Patrol means admitting right up front that I have a soft spot for what they do best: soaring ballads. “Run” is their first and greatest example of this. Snow Patrol are the master of sweeping, swooning alt rock masterpieces, and I admit that I love them for this. They also have shown a decent knack for exploring their sound, albeit never so much that it really strays from what Snow Patrol does best. My respect for Snow Patrol comes from appreciating a back-to-back listening of “Run” and “Golden Floors”, a perfect combined display of their prowess.

I’ve heard things about “Fallen Empires” being a change in direction. I don’t know what to make of that. Sure, I could dive into every sonic detail here, but I’ll say that on the whole the album sounds very Snow Patrol-ish: sweeping, sweet, easy to digest, pleasing to the ears, but not too much of any of those things. Snow Patrol are at their best when they stick with their expertise on songs like “New York” and “This Isn’t Everything You Are”. In the right mood, they’ll give you chills as they soar to their peak. “New York” makes fantastic use of a horn as the chorus bridge, making it a great balance between sound exploration and sweeping balladry.

The pop gem of the album is probably “Called Out in the Dark”, which is a little more electronic than usual. This is the kind of song that might step into the top 40 for a bit and provide welcome relief. More likely, it will be burning up Alt Nation soon enough.

People divide on their decision to love or hate Snow Patrol based on songs like “Garden Rules” and “Lifening”, where softy lines like “you will never know/how much I love you” and “waking up in your arms/a place to call my own/this is all I ever wanted from life” carry the songs. Say what you want about Snow Patrol, but by now they clearly are just going to embrace being the Grey’s Anatomy band, and I respect their persistence.

One other thing to note: “Berlin” is a musical interlude, but don’t overlook it. It’s another example of Snow Patrol making sure that they don’t clog up their albums with filler (“The President”, “Fallen Empires”, “Those Distant Bells”, and “The Symphony” are all worthy songs as well).

Looking across my Snow Patrol discography, it’d be impossible from just glancing at individual song ratings to see which album I like best. Once again Snow Patrol does what they do: a couple or few stellar tracks, a solid assortment of good tracks, and almost no poor tracks. Consistency is a virtue when you’re good, and this album fits the Snow Patrol collection just fine. Like a lot of Snow Patrol, it’s an album heavy on sentiment and emotion, and if that’s your cup of tea, you’ll find satisfaction in this one.

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