Album Review: Synthetica by Metric

Released June 12, 2012 via Mom + Pop Records.

“I’m just as fucked up as they say/I can’t fake the daytime/Found an entrance to escape into the dark,” an opening line to set the precedence for the record. According to a letter, not a blog, but a letter frontman Emily Haines wrote to her family, friends and fans, Synthetica is about identifying with your own reflection, deciphering real from artificial.

Following the opening number; marching drums, streaming synths and distorted vocals combust on  “Youth Without Youth.” Metric’s journey over the last decade has pieced together the perfect pop melodies with politically-infused indie rock. Much like “Monster Hospital,” the lead single brings us back to that edgy side, “Hangman we played/Double dutch with hand grenade/Behind the church, hiding place/Apathetic to the devil’s face/Wear the sheriff’s badge/Put your toys away.”

The band formed in 1999 due to multiple connections that make for a long, long story on another day. Arts & Crafts Record label owner Kevin Drew assisted in the formation and maturity of the group, who later signed them to the label. Metric is one of those great stories where their music progressively grew, as did their popularity. Most notably, after the release of Fantasies in 2009, which won two Juno awards and was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize. Standing on both the Polaris and Juno platform simultaneously says something. They refuse to stray from the original direction of the group. Progressing with the times and distribution mediums is a galaxy away from selling out. Guitarists and producer James (Jimmy) Shaw has been popping out the same synths and guitar riffs since Grow Up And Blow Away. 

Synthetica is about growth. While Haines’ potent words often stab with opinions, the theme revolves around questioning whether technology has altered our culture or thought process. She was aiming for that grandiose triumph on “Breathing Underwater,” but it fell short. It’s commendable when an artist attempts to step outside their comfort zone, in this case however, it’s a notch below their comfort zone. Metric’s depth will not allow them to pull off this song, it ends up sounding bland, like plain porridge.

Emily plays the roll of Evil Queen on “Lost Kitten.” Expanding her vocals to that deliberate girly squeal, which adds colour and irony to a story about females with self-esteem issues. “Victim of the system, say it ain’t so/Squatted on the doorstep, swollen on the blow.” A beautiful combination of gentle pounding percussion, futuristic synths and Lou Reed on “The Wanderlust.” Travelling holds such a great sense of adventure and self-discovery, something Haines and Reed easily capitalized on with this track.

Emily Haines and company conquered what they set out to do. As she explained in the aforementioned letter, the record touches on a clusterfuck of emotions, actions, rights, wrongs and everything in between. Synthetica is sexy, ironic, witty and honest. It’s about ownership and holding yourself accountable. They tried some new things, some worked and others, not so much, but who really likes stale bread?

What did you think of Synthetica?

2 comments

  1. Very well said!! Listening to the album for the first time at this moment! I feel the growth, the strength, the passion! Great album. Wishing I could see them when they are here! I remember seeing Metric when they opened for Billy Talent in Thunder Bay in 2005 I believe. Fell in love right away!

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