Ladytron: Time’s Arrow Album Review

Two years ago, Ladytron’s immortal “Seventeen” briefly went viral on TikTok. The track came out back in 2002—before many of the platform’s users had even been born—yet the Liverpool band’s brittle, dead-eyed electroclash struck a nerve. A barbed indictment of exploitation rendered in icy electronics, “Seventeen” was ahead of its time in sound and lyrics, paving the way for over a decade of darkly enveloping electro pop. In 2019, following an eight-year break, Ladytron returned with an agitated, apocalyptic self-titled album that cleared the table for a new era. Now, on their seventh album, Time’s Arrowthe band reaches for a lighter sound, with bright production, effervescent synths, and impressionistic lyrics that home in on the unrelenting march of time.

The production on Time’s Arrow renders escapism in gleaming tones. On “The Night,” over an upbeat groove and glowing synths, vocalist Helen Marnie takes a nocturnal trip that spins out of control; it maintains their seductive edge while morphing into one of the most joyfully straightforward pop songs in their catalog. The band’s music works best in this propulsive mode: On the chiming standout “Faces,” Marnie’s lyrical repetition lends a throbbing pulse that accelerates alongside glassy synth lines. On the anthemic and shoegaze-y “California,” a downcast love letter to the state, distorted guitars and sturdy drums dial things up before dissipating beneath Marnie’s ethereal chorus. “California, make us happy,” she intones, letting the words drift weightlessly.

Evocative images recur throughout Time’s Arrow, which is full of flashing lights, water, and dreams that offer mesmerizing spaces for getting lost. “Flight From Angkor” revolves around a slow build of oscillating synth lines and clanging guitar, laying down an unsettled backdrop for Mira Aroyo’s gentle voice; memory, she sings, is a “hall of mirrors echoing for years.” Experiencing time as a one-directional force provides the album’s throughline, a theme that works in concert with the music’s swirling, atmospheric moods. The cinematic title track drives it home best: Set against jagged, feedback-heavy production and a menacing synth, Aroyo’s vocals grow increasingly restless, matching time’s irrepressible flow forward.

Time’s Arrow‘s consistency also works against it. The record’s more placid songs bleed together: “The Dreamers” is a gauzy, shiftless ballad that circles a static chord progression and vague lyrics, while “Sargasso Sea,” a largely instrumental track that follows it, evaporates just as it starts to build toward a climax. “Misery Remember Me” fares better, a song that doesn’t wallow in the titular misery as much as sunbathe and luxuriate in it. Expressive washes of guitar and drums provide a warm, delicate comfort for the torment, captured in Marnie’s rich, layered vocals. Like the best songs on Time’s Arrowit proves just how intoxicating Ladytron’s enduring brand of atmospheric synth pop can be.

All products featured on Pitchfork are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: