Sound: Don't call this one a greatest hits. The members of Snow Patrol have been opting to call their new 2-CD collection Up To Now a gathering of the best-loved songs rather a playlist of what could be considered hit singles. Yes, you'll have the standard Chasing Cars and Run, which put the band on the map worldwide, but there are some rarer offerings that diehard fans will likely find good additions to the catalog. Is the most interesting batch of tunes? No, but it features a wide array of selections that will at least please their core audience.
Apparently band members hand-selected their personal favorites for inclusion on Up To Now, which in a way paints a better picture of their musical vision as a whole. Many of the 30 tracks will be unfamiliar to you if you've recently become acquainted with Snow Patrol's music, and there is even a selection from frontman Gary Lightbody's side project The Reindeer Section. Three new tracks are featured on the playlist, and in many ways they were written with the same vibe as the mellow Chasing Cars. The new song Give Me Strength was deemed the band's favorite song by Lightbody, but it's more likely because of the emotional connection (the song is about their own history together) rather than the musicality. It has a lovely underlying melody, but it doesn't take many musical turns along the way and the main focus seems to be the lyrical content.
The highlights on Up To Now are the tracks that take a few more chances in their construction. Snow Patrol has a tendency love it or hate it to repeat the same melody over and over and over again within the course of the song. They rarely stray from that format, but hey, it's worked for them up to this point. In any case, this time around it's infinitely more interesting to hear the band cover Beyonce's Crazy In Love or even take a stab at a more grunge-meets-synth sound with Starfighter Pilot. Other great selections are the gorgeous duet with Martha Wainright called Set Fire To The Third Bar, the percussion-driven The Golden Floor, and the most experimental track on the entire set, Making Enemies.
For every good point, Snow Patrol does have a tendency to regurgitate the same style over and over again. That wouldn't be such a horrible thing if frontman Gary Lightbody put at least some emotional inflection with the changing verses or even to accentuate the chorus. The live selections from Union Chapel show a tiny bit more passion, but on most of the tracks there isn't a whole lot of fluctuation in his vocals. // 7
Lyrics: Snow Patrol's lyrics could be considered a focal point, and you can certainly see growth in that area. With material that spans a decade, you'll hear more hipster lyrical fare in a track like 1998's Starfighter Pilot (Andrew's a starfighter pilot; He knows all the girls in the world; He's better than James Kirk or Tweeky; I cradle his picture at night) to more personal, intimate themes heard in Give Me Strength (My friends we've seen it all; Triumphs to drunken falls; And our bones are broken still; But our hearts are joined until time slips its tired hand). There's certainly a more polished thoughtful approach to the later works, and Up To Now does a fine job at showing the band's evolution. // 8
Overall Impression: As compilations go, Up To Now is a fairly well-rounded glimpse at Snow Patrol's history. Most of us are probably used to the Chasing Cars era, so it's pretty fascinating to hear the Irish band when they were a bit more rough-around-the edges in 1998. Their interpretation of Beyonce's Crazy In Love doesn't at first seem to work, but they do manage to make the song their own rapped section and all. It's unusual moments like those that keep the two CDs' momentum going. If you're already a fan of Snow Patrol, the three new songs, two live concert performances, and assortment of rarities should make it a worthwhile purchase. // 8