Martin Amis’ novel Time’s Arrow, features a reverse chronology with the lead character becoming younger with each turning page.
With their new album Time’s Arrow, Ladytron – comprised of Helen Marnie, Mira Aroyo, Daniel Hunt, and Reuben Wu – has created a dreamy soundscape, full of hope, optimism, and driving synths, that feels fresh while bathing in the band’s iconic sound. It sonically conjures great expectations of the future, shadows of past adventures, and, at times, both simultaneously. It is, cover-to-cover, an all-encompassing listening experience that finds the band reaching new heights and reminding you why you fell in love with them in the first place.
Created between 2019 and 2022, most of the track list was made as COVID swept the world. That being said, Time’s Arrow is anything but a traditional pandemic record.
“What I noticed during the one-to-two year period where people were kind of solitary, a lot of the music that was coming out really, really annoyed me because it was so literal in its lyrics about solitary confinement and being on your own,” explained Marnie by Zoom from the northeast coast of Scotland. “The whole depressive aspect of it – I really disliked it. So for me, I wanted to create something almost the exact opposite. It’s like, yeah, everyone has gone through similar experiences but at the same time do we really want to go over that? I don’t. I want to come out the other end and be excited about things.”
Throughout Time’s Arrow, Ladytron celebrates human connection through reminiscences, hopes for the future, and shared cultural experiences. One of the album’s many stand-outs, “The Night,” builds on the endless possibility that comes from reshaping memories.
“With ‘The Night,’ I wanted to have some fun really and have a bit of energy. It’s introspective and it’s retrospective. I think a lot of people will be able to relate to that,” said Marnie.
People will also relate to the lyrical nods to the American folk movement of the 1960s.
“I do love Joni Mitchell and her style, her lyrical style. And I do steal little elements of that and Carly Simon. If you look at the lyrics, there’s a few little bits – I haven’t thieved anything but it’s definitely inspired by the lyrics, the way they put things together,” Marnie said with a laugh speaking of writing “California.”
She added, “There’s four of us in the band, so there’s a lot of different influences that you may not immediately think of with Ladytron. For example, Mira is the biggest Bob Dylan fan and various other folk artists. It’s maybe not obvious, but it does influence us individually.”
Ladytron first formed in Liverpool in the late-1990s. For the majority of the time since its inception, band members have lived in separate cities. Currently, Marnie is located in Scotland. Wu is in Chicago. Hunt is in Brazil and Aroyo is in London. Despite this physical distance, Ladytron shares a bond that allows them to write in their own spaces and later come together to create a collection of songs that sound as if they were written with one mind.
“The way we work tends to be, we write at home individually and that’s fine, that’s easy. We can pass ideas to each other and that’s totally cool. When it does get difficult is when trying to get into the studio together at the same time. Ideally, yes, we all want to be in the studio at the same time, but it doesn’t always work like that,” said Marnie. “It’s just a case of working around it and trying to be in the same place when we can. As I said, it always seems to come together. I think probably we just know each other so well. We’ve been working together for so long so we know how it goes in the end.”
A little more than midway through Time’s Arrow, “The Dreamers,” co-produced by Jonny Scott, sweeps listeners into another dimension with its intoxicating vocals and dizzying instrumentation.
“Some people ask me, ‘What is that track, ‘The Dreamers’ about?’ Sometimes I think, ‘Well, I’m not entirely sure. It’s like I take my head away to a different space and it’s almost like I am dreaming about maybe a different life or being with different people or experiencing something different. Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint really, but maybe it’s subconscious.”
Following “City of Angels” – the album opener and lead single – and eight more dazzling songs, the title track and tenth and closing number, “Time’s Arrow,” serves as a reminder of the inescapable pull of destiny. How once you recognize a moment as being magical, it’s already gone. The song is a bit of a reality check that Aroyo has referred to as “inspired by a Bond theme playing in an alternate Blade Runner-esque universe.”
“I think maybe a lot of bands know what they are going to call the album before they write the album. That’s never been us. We do it the other way around,” said Marnie. “Mira wrote that track [“Time’s Arrow”] and when we put all the songs together, it just seemed like the natural closer. We often take the name of the album from a track off the album. This one just seemed to fit perfectly.’
Although Time’s Arrow has been complete for several months, the January 20 release date was determined by considering the schedule of the band, the timeline of the label, as well as factoring in vinyl production delays. It’s a bit serendipitous that the album ended up being released early in a new year, a moment that inspires reflection and expectation. With Time’s Arrow, Marnie and Aroyo’s vocals offer truth and comfort by pointing out the dangers lurking in a troubled world while gently guiding listeners to a better place where it is safe to dream again for the next 12 months and beyond.