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Album Review: Snow Patrol's 'Fallen Empires'

January 9, 2012 |  6:26 pm

Snow patrol

Snow Patrol’s frontman goes by the name of Gary Lightbody, but on its sixth studio album, this Irish alt-rock band couldn’t sound more heavy-hearted. After opening with the image of a house burning to the ground, “Fallen Empires” cycles through similarly unhappy scenes of romantic turmoil, existential worry and, in the nostalgia-soaked “The Garden Rules,” childhood cemetery strolls “amongst the lavender and headstones.” By the time he gets to “The President,” the album’s final track before an instrumental coda, even Lightbody needs a bit of reassurance. “I’ve crashed to earth,” he sings over a tolling piano figure, “but I’d fallen for so long that it was just relief.”

Best known for the pensive 2006 hit “Chasing Cars,” Snow Patrol made “Fallen Empires” in Los Angeles, and the experience appears to have earned the group some new pals; Lissie contributes background vocals to several cuts, and Troy Van Leeuwen of Queens of the Stone Age plays guitar on the lead single, “Called Out in the Dark.” (Non-local guests include Nico Muhly and Owen Pallett, both of whom devised lush orchestral arrangements.) Yet for all the textural variety they provide, those welcome cameos rarely succeed in leavening Lightbody’s pervasive gloom. “Don’t keel over now,” he urges a troubled friend in “This Isn’t Everything You Are,” and he might as well be addressing his audience.

Snow Patrol

“Fallen Empires”

(Island)

One and half stars (out of four)

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--Mikael Wood

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