Release Date: January 10th, 2012
Reviewed By Evelyn Miska Krieger
Fallen Empires is Snow Patrol’s sixth studio album and it’s almost doubly disappointing because of that. That probably comes across wrong; it’s a solid album full of those lushly orchestrated tracks that listeners have come to expect from the band. Fallen Empires is well produced and there really isn’t a song that falls out of step, but those songs that are capable of really grabbing listeners aren’t there. There’s no supremely moody, yet catchy “Run.” There are slow ballady songs, but nothing that quite reaches that sublime peak of “Set the Fire to the Third Bar.” That song worthy of playing over and over just doesn’t seem to be there.
“I’ll Never Let Go” is one of the more up-tempo songs on the album and that energy was a wise choice for a starter track. Lead singer Gary Lightbody’s vocals sound just as etherial as always and the female backing vocals are an interesting addition. The song has some strength and works as an opener, but it still somehow lacks that certain something that grabbed listeners on previous Snow Patrol tracks. “The Weight of Love” has a bit of a misleading intro and doesn’t sound like it will have as good of a hook or chorus as it turns out to have. Like some of the other stand-out Snow Patrol songs, “The Weight of Love” has a big, multi-layered chorus that comes across with such depth. Sadly, the rest of the song doesn’t quite live up to such a refrain. There’s some decent energy and an o.k. build, but as a complete package it’s missing that final bit of stardust to make it a hit.
Although most of Fallen Empires ends up in that mid-tempo realm so many adult contemporary artists fall prey to, there are a few tracks that land outside that. “The Garden Rules” is one of those exceptions. It begins with a moodiness that bodes well, but it never totally commits to that moodiness. It falls short and even through there are female backing vocals included, it just doesn’t hit that melancholy beauty and crescendo that Lightbody and crew found when they collaborated with Martha Wainwright. The album’s title track almost gets there and, like “I’ll Never Let Go,” has a faster pace that is needed at the mid-point of the album. With a little more of an electronic sound, it shows Snow Patrol branching out a bit, but it never quite seals the deal.
“The Symphony” might be one of the 14 tracks that gets the closest to being the song off Fallen Empires. It has a little bit of energy to it, a decent chorus and that signature Snow Patrol sound (though, to be fair, that’s there on all the tracks), but as much as listeners may want it to be that breakout track, it misses that special element. And that’s what’s so disappointing about Fallen Empires. As much of a Snow Patrol fan as you may be, as much as you might want this to be an amazing album, it falls just shy of fulfilling those hopes. It’s solid, there’s no debating that, but that agony turned into beautiful songwriting seems tempered. Maybe too much time in the limelight has softened those jagged edges that made for standout songs.