Following up on the success of 2009’s Fantasies, electro-rock outfit Metric has solidified their sound and dug deep lyrically with its fifth studio release Synthetica, creating what may be the band’s most poignant and significant work so far.
Metric is already a band that is breaking barriers and beating the odds at so many levels. Think about this:
- They found their greatest success as an indie band. Breaking free of the labels, they released Fantasies, which went platinum in their home country of Canada and produced a Top-20 hit in America—all without the help of a label. (A great encouragement to indie musicians like me…)
- They found a unique artistic voice in a flooded market. While so many electronic bands get lost in a sea of sub-genres, Metric has developed an easy-to-recognize sound with their combination of pop, rock and electronic elements.
- They have proven that electronic/dance music can be about more than just dancing in a club. You can dance to Metric, or you can sit down and think about the lyrics—and frequently both.
All of these things are reinforced on Synthetica. It’s like what Fantasies began, Synthetica is continuing—only better. Looking back to point 3 above—in my opinion, the lyrics are by far the strongest part of the record. Thematically speaking, this record is frequently dark, introspective, and brutally honest. In her understated, almost-little-girl voice, frontwoman Emily Haines delivers lyrics such as “I’m just as f**ked as they say” (the opening line of the album, on the song “Artificial Nocturne”); “Seems like nothing I say ever meant anything…I’ll shut up and carry on / A Scream Becomes a Yawn” (on “Dreams So Real,” an apparent ode to meaninglessness); and “My regret / Only makes me stronger yet… “It’s too late in the day to tell me I’m off the path / We’re already in the aftermath” (on “Clone,” a reflection on mistakes and shortcomings).
Haines once described Synthetica to Metric fans as being about “what is real versus what is artificial.” That, I think, is a really good description of what is going on here. It’s as though Metric is using drum loops and robotic, artificial sounds to talk about things that are extremely human. The contrast is very effective.
Perhaps the only weakness on the album, in my opinion, is that musically and stylewise, this record is very close to Fantasies. In fact, it sounds at times like they simply lifted some of the drum loops and bass riffs from the previous album and stuck them onto this one. But listening to the lyrics, it’s easy for me to forgive this—at least for now. (Don’t know if I’d want a third album to sound like this—but that’s just me.)
Never mind my nitpicking here—fans of Metric will find plenty to be happy about with Synthetica. It’s an album well worth waiting for, worth listening to—and worth dancing to.
ALBUM RATING: 4 Stars (out of five)