TUESDAY, JUNE 12, 2012|
Posted by: Jean Lee
Metric's Synthetica contrasts the real and the artificial ("synthetic(a)," if you will). For the fifth time ( Synthetica being Metric's fifth studio album), Metric brings us something unique. Synthetica is a mix of tracks reminiscent of an older, punkier Metric ("Youth Without Youth" with its dance party beat and synth rips) and a more sensitive Metric, reminiscent of past album Fantasies ("Clone" with its dreamy tune and emphasis on lyricism).
The new album presents a more developed sound. It makes sense since the Canadian birthed in Toranto) pop/punk/new wave band released their debut album nine years ago. They know what works and how to do it without refining their sound with flat pop synths. This strength is seen in the more sensitive tracks of the album. "Breathing Underwater," for example, utilizes instrumentals (and Haines unique voice) to bring us a dreamlike song only capable with maturity. Emily Haines (vocals, guitar, synthesizer) emphasizes "Is this my life?/Am I breathing underwater" while gentle synth tones swell beneath her.
However, Metric isn't too comfortable. Synthetica begins with the lyrics "I'm just as f-cked up as they say" in the first track "Artificial Nocturne." "Artificial Nocturne" steps out of Metric's comfort zone; the song starts with sweet vocals and rough instrumentals moving into upbeat deconstructed pop. Track "Lost Kitten" brings Haines voice to a high pitched sardonic pop tone to put something sneakily hilarious (and, just admit it, aesthetically pleasing) on the table. "Wanderlust" combines Haines with Lou Reed (yeah, Lou Reed is on this album). The two voices have a difficult time complimenting eachother but isn't that the point? The contrast of real and artificial? Haines' lyricism is exemplary in "Wanderlust" and the song is catchy -- it just leaves you reaching for something else.
Introspective lyrics pervade the new album. Haines sings (almost weeps...this singer knows how to use the best of her vocals despite limited range) "I look like everyone you know now" in the beautiful ballad "Clone." The dance beat "The Void" depicts the best of James Shaw (guitar), Josh Winstead (bass), and Joules Scott-Key (drums) -- the refined, yet powerful synth tune emphasizes Haines' sallow sentiment of "All night, like a child/I stayed up to prove I could keep up."
Synthetica is a compelling album presenting the prowess of Metric. The first and last tracks ("Artificial Nocturne" and "Nothing But Time") show the best (and complex capability) of pop. In many ways Metric defies genre but Synthetica shows that, when done, Metric does pop right. Notorious altered vocals and consistent synth were made satisfying by Metric years ago...and present day. They have, somehow, entered "the mainstream" (I used the term...calm down) without losing what makes Metric Metric. Whether a fan from the beginning or a fan since Scott Pilgram vs. the World , Synthetica is a vibrant addition to Metric's history.