Earlier this month Gary Lightbody and the members of Snow Patrol released Fallen Empires, their sixth studio album. With so much prior international attention surrounding the Irish band, it’s accomplished nearly everything a band sets out to do. The group has won awards like Best British Band and Best Irish Band as well as had hits like “Chasing Cars” and “Signal Fire” played on “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Spiderman 3,” respectively.
This has set a standard for fan expectations, but with its newest album the band urges listeners to keep an open mind. The work maintains Snow Patrol’s softer essence while expanding into a few new directions. But after Snow Patrol’s 13 years, it will be up to fans to determine if the new album is an acceptable “reinvention” or if it has strayed too far from what made the band in the first place.
Fallen Empires is by no means a poor album. Its deep, layered instrumentation is a familiar fit for Lightbody’s fans, and each song maintains a distinct identity. The track “Called Out in the Dark” deserves its role as the album’s first single. Its catchy techno bass embodies the band’s mission to find a different sound. But the vocals and simple drumbeat bring the listener back just enough to release any inhibitions about the change and accept it as a radio-ready tune. The final lines of the chorus, “We are listening, / And we’re not blind,” seem to be hinting at what Lightbody wishes fans to do: Listen without blind bias toward previous efforts.
“This Isn’t Everything You Are” brings the nostalgia of Snow Patrol’s brilliantly dragging strings beneath a powerful chorus of voices in the song’s emotional apex. It maintains the same moving feel as “Run” from Final Straw. The message within the song speaks of not limiting existence to the temporary negative moments within it, that, “There is joy not far from here.”
But after the excitement of a new album wears off, what remains? Songs like “The Weight of Love” and “Those Distant Bells” do not offer anything new or pleasing to the ear. The beats and lyrics become repetitive and seem to drag on in quite a dull – and, honestly, boring – fashion. And it is hard to find a more uninteresting way to sing, “Oh you will never know, / How much I love you so,” than in “The Garden Rules.” This is unfortunate, given the effort put into the collaboration with American folk rock artist Lissie.
Apart from its two singles, Fallen Empires may be more of a background music album, but perhaps that is the point. Music isn’t always about lyrical meaning or catchy hooks; sometimes it’s just about feeling. Therefore, determined fans should put on their headphones, lie down and drift away to see what Snow Patrol has to offer, while newcomers should see if the two singles entice them to listen to the whole album.
3 stars out of 5