Depending on who you ask, Metric is a Canadian band that was formed in Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver. Some Americans, however, claim Metric as their own, having been formed in New York City. Wherever they call home, it seems everybody wants to claim Metric as a band from their hometown, and understandably so considering how over the last decade, Metric has solidified their place as one of the most respected bands in the indie music scene.
On their newest album, Fantasies (Metric Music), Emily Haines, James Shaw and the rest of the Metric crew once again deliver an album that shows that the band's ability to create amazing music hasn't diminished. From start to finish, Fantasies comes chock full of the same kind of epic rock anthems Metric has provided us over the years. Opener "Help I'm Alive" - a track that many die-hard Metric fans have been playing on repeat ever since it was released on the internet months ago - is a good indication of what is in store. "My heart keeps beating like a hammer", sings Haines...this while a persistent heartbeat-like drumming takes listeners into the album.
Like previous efforts, musically, Fantasies is full of magical moments that suggest the band is only getting better with age. The instrumentation is a little bit tighter, the synths are a little bit catchier, and the vocals are lovelier than ever before. On an album in which there are so many impressive vocal moments, one of the brightest comes in the form of "Twilight Galaxy". Singing "If you're not alright now/ Come on baby/ I'll pick you up/ And take you/ Anywhere you want/ Anything you want", multiple versions of Haines' voice come together to create shiver inducing harmonies.
Another amazing feat worth noting is how Metric, can make a song come to life as a band. This is no better displayed than on "Gimme Sympathy"; a song that was already a hit when it was an acoustic demo featuring nothing more than guitar accompanying Haines' voice. On the album version offered here, however, the song gets a makeover...with tremendous results. The electric guitar and dreamlike synth that drifts around in the background now serve as the backdrop to Haines' vocals, as she asks the primordial question: "Who would you rather be? The Beatles or the Rolling Stones". This song has fan favorite written all over it.
For her part, Haines' lyrics throughout the album take on introspective and quite abstract qualities most of the time, leaving room for interpretation. There are also moments on the album when the lyrics leave you perplexed. In "Stadium Love" she sings, "Spider versus bat, tiger versus rat, rabbit versus dove, wanna make a bet?" On the surface it seems as if Haines has simply been watching too many animal versus animal videos on Youtube, but knowing her there is deeper meaning there.
"Burnout stars they shine so bright, all of us", Haines sings on "Front Row", echoing the fact that unhappy, drugged up musicians always make the best music. What is interesting to note is how Haines includes herself in this category. Perhaps the years of constant touring have taken their toll on her. It would make sense because her music is as good as ever. Going with this theme in "Blindness", Haines sings "You gave me a life I never chose/ I wanna leave but the world won't let me go". One can only hope that things aren't as bad as these dark lyrics suggest.
Fantasies isn't a departure from anything Metric has done in the past. They haven't re-invented themselves or tried to experiment with new types of music. Yet, this album may be the best album in the band's ever growing discography. There isn't one song worth skipping over, and there are no moments designed just to fill up extra time. What Fantasies is, is an album full of great songs that will most likely replace a lot of previous fan favorites in the Metric repertoire. Upon every album release it seems Metric has reached the apex of their greatness. But every time they release a new album, we are forced to rethink that thought. -Greg Lozoff