Metric – Synthetica
When it comes to catchy pop with a superstar of a front woman, Metric has been a staple for years now. Their last effort from 2008 showed a transition to a stronger electronic sound from the angular guitars that early releases relied on. Three years later they are back and the title, Synthetica tells you where this band is headed with their sound before you even hear the first song; artificial and synthetic and further down the road they turned onto with Fantasies.
If the album title wasn’t enough to clue you in to the direction of the album, the first track ought to the do the trick. “Artificial Nocturne” starts out with waves of synthesizer and Emily Haines’ sleek vocals claiming she’s “as fucked up as they say.” This lasts for the opening two minutes of the album, before the guitar and drums kick in and the song begins to go anywhere. At this point, Metric eases into the familiar sound that they’ve given you before, but it feels distanced, as if you have to search to find the pop music that this band has previously doled out with ease.
As far as songwriting goes on this album, it seems as though Haines has grown a bit lazy, which is the main reason that Synthetica falls flat upon listen. Before, the band put out songs with a heavy electronic presence, but the lyrics that Haines spat at you were catchy and interesting, gracing the music with human accessibility. A lot of the tracks on this release feel lazy, with overly repeated lines, which may be catchy, but become stale after they are the very crux of the songs. One of the worst offenders of this repetitive business is “Dreams So Real,” whose two-minute-and-forty-one seconds of existence feels like it goes on forever while Haines reiterates that she’ll “Shut up and carry on,” and sadly, you wish she would.
Of course there are exceptions to this phenomenon that are quite enjoyable. Embedded in the far away tracks are those that you can connect to with hooky guitar lines and Haines sultry vocals leading you along. Songs like “Breathing Underwater,” and “Lost Kitten,” prove to be interesting and real additions to your listening bank of Metric songs. “Breathing Underwater” is a seamless combination of the synthetic elements with the grounded guitar lines, reminiscent of “Gimme Sympathy” off of their previous release. “Lost Kitten,” is a sassy number on which the quick lyrics draw you in and then Haines holds you with her understated power vocals.
Synthetica is not the step into a new, interesting direction that I was hoping Metric would take. Rather, the majority of this album is muted and lacking the shimmer that sets Haines and company apart from the average pop band, however, I invite you to wade through Synthetica to find those gems.