It is over 15 years since Joe Mount released Metronomy’s debut, and initially, it was merely a solo project before gradually morphing into something wildly bigger than he’d ever considered when he was cooking up beats in his bedroom. Now on their seventh album, Mount has guided the group through many sounds over the decades, but ultimately, his expansive mind feels slightly restricted on Small World.
In the run-up to the album, Mount explained the project was his deliberate attempt to make something exuberant and uplifting. In a recent interview with The Sunday Times, the multi-instrumentalist revealed that before making Small World, he couldn’t get his “head around writing a song that was about waking up and it’s a beautiful morning and not feeling odd about doing that. I didn’t get the nuance”.
The record arrives as Metronomy’s first outing since 2019’s Metronomy Forever, and the pandemic meant that there was no need to rush a follow-up. Instead, Mount took his time to write and, subsequently, found the experience of working on his own time scale a liberating one.
With touring off the table, Mount appreciated time with his partner and their two children, which subconsciously moulded Small World into an appreciation of those who matter most and the inner workings of Mount’s personal reflections throughout the last two years.
The bleak opening track ‘Life and Death’ couldn’t be further away from the exultant album I was expecting, as Mount looks back solemnly on his life and sings: “It was fun, what I did, got a job, had some kids, see you in the abyss”. Fortunately, most of the record is lighter and in line with the intended modus operandi of Small World.
Things step up a gear on the encouraging ‘Things Will Be Fine’, a song that captures the mellow mood of the pandemic while retaining a lingering sense of optimism that it won’t be like this forever. Moving forward, ‘It’s Good To Be Back’ is the closest we get on the album to the vintage, synth-heavy Metronomy sound and one that will make you put on your best dancing shoes.
The group express their moody side on ‘Loneliness In The Run’, which is blessed with a dirty bassline that surprisingly pleasantly combines with Mount’s heavenly vocals on the chorus. Meanwhile, the infectious psychedelic-tinged ‘Love Factory’ is a joyous ode to his partner, and Mount once again proves that he’s an expert when it comes to creating choruses that will swirl in your head. Meanwhile, ‘I Lost My Mind’ feels something of a David Bowie impression, and when it’s executed proficiently like here, that’s no bad thing.
Minimalism bleeds throughout the album, which at some points is limiting; the approach pays off splendidly on the soothing ‘Right On Time’ and ‘Hold Me Tonight’. The album then comes full circle on closer ‘I Have Seen Enough’, which brings proceedings to an end in a similar morose fashion sonically to how Small World started. Except, Mount isn’t fretting about mortality this time around and instead filled with gratitude about the peaceful life he’s carved for himself.
While Small World is more risk-averse and downbeat than its predecessors, there’s also a pleasure to be found as the group elegantly embrace ageing rather than clinging to the past and forging a new era for Metronomy.