When Snow Patrol released “Just Say Yes,” the lead single off of their first career retrospective album, many fans and critics responded negatively to the new direction the band was going in.
The song had the band layering in a heavy dose of radio-friendly electronica influences, adding a much more mainstream element to their trademark adult-contemporary sound.
“Where Keane and Peñate actually succeeded in introducing a new feel to their sound, Snow Patrol have merely grafted on a few floaty keys and hoped for the best,” said Mayer Nissim of Digital Spy about the song. “There’s no spark, no OOMPH, and worst of all, no fun,” wrote Fraser McAlpine of the BBC. Ouch.
While initially thrown off by “Just Say Yes,” I came to think that it was actually a very natural musical evolution for Snow Patrol. The song was the quintessential dance/rock hybrid, blending just enough ingredients from both genres to complete a near-flawless recipe.
This fall, Snow Patrol will release their sixth studio album, Fallen Empires. The record’s lead single, “Called Out In The Dark,” premiered last week on BBC Radio 1 and will be officially released to iTunes as part of an as-of-yet-untitled EP on September 4th.
In the vein of “Just Say Yes,” “Called Out In The Dark” finds Snow Patrol expanding their repertoire and infusing their signature melancholy rock sound with generous portions of synth-pop and dance beats. For all of my fellow indie lovers out there, think of this stylistic expansion as a (slightly less extreme) version of how Discovery reworked Ra Ra Riot and Vampire Weekend’s sounds on LP1.
Since the release of “Called Out In The Dark,” the blogosphere reception has been divided down the middle. Some are praising Snow Patrol for taking risks while others are accusing of them of selling out and just trying to reclaim the commercial success they once tasted with “Chasing Cars.”
The truth is, however, that there is no room for artistic growth if musicians don’t experiment in the studio. I respect that the band is expanding their range. After all, nobody wants to make the same record twice, right? Just take a look at Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver). His first album was a soft, acoustically driven masterpiece. This year, he released his second album, which was a complete musical departure. And yet, the record received rave reviews from both fans and critics alike. My point? Sometimes it’s okay to not play on the safe side.
“And while the heavens, they opened up / Like arms of dazzling gold / With our rain washed histories / Well they do not need to be told,” lead vocalist Gary Lightbody sings, kicking off a crescendo of synethizers and percussion that pave the way to the climactic chorus. Musically, Snow Patrol may have undergone some changes – but lyrically, they’re the same doleful band behind “Run” and “Set The Fire To The Third Bar.”
As far as lead singles go, “Called Out In The Dark” is a smart choice for the band. It’s a seemingly perfect formula for a late summer hit: the melding together of their alternative soft rock with enough synthesizers to easily boom through a stadium theater. The only question that remains now is will enough people get on board with Snow Patrol’s new musical direction to actually fill that stadium?
I’ve been a huge, huge Snow Patrol fan for years. Ever since it was announced, Fallen Empires has been one of my most anticipated record releases of 2011. With “Called Out In The Dark”, the band has released a brilliant slice of alternative synth-pop. And personally, I can’t wait for a full album’s worth of this stuff.
“Called Out In The Dark” will be released on September 4. (iTunes)