Snow Patrol: Fallen Empires
Snow Patrol is nothing if not consistent. The group has attained platinum success across the Atlantic, and even once here, but they still remain somewhat enigmatic, at least as compared to the group's clear ancestors, which include UK supergroups U2 and Coldplay. All of the available information prior to the album's release indicated fans should expect a new direction from the band, and if that's the case, Fallen Empires is perhaps less of a departure than some might have expected, even if it is unlikely to disappoint any longtime fans of the group.
Every song on the album is still carried by frontman Gary Lightbody, whose lyrics are unabashedly straightforward, and who earns his earnestness with affecting delivery, even if he does veer toward schmaltz at times. Even at the album's sappiest, it can be hard not to get swept up in the reverie, with Lightbody leading the whole thing, but backed by the slow-building instrumentations that made previous Snow Patrol hits like "Chasing Cars" and "Run" so powerful. Yet I can see why the group might brand the album as a departure; for every song here that fits into the bands type cleanly (like the power-ballad, and album highlight, "This Isn't Everything You Are" or more quiet, contemplative fare like "New York"), there is a track that brings something new, albeit only slightly, to the mix (for example, the electronic underpinnings to "I'll Never Let You Go" or the gospellic "The Weight of Love").
Ultimately, Fallen Empires is less the departure it was hailed as, and more another solid entry in the band's body of work. Which is to say that fans of Snow Patrol are likely to find plenty to love, while detractors are unlikely to have their criticisms abated in the least. The band is at its maudlin best on tracks like "Lifening" and the slow-burn of the penultimate track, "The President." Fallen Empires isn't the sort of album that will blow anyone away, but that might not be the point. Snow Patrol seems comfortable where they are, and as long as that wheelhouse includes the mix of emotions, from elegiac to celebratory, and room for slight variation that is on display here, they will continue to be a comforting respite from more experimental bands, a group that will deliver exactly what they promise each time out: an album that is solid throughout and occasionally stellar.