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Album Review: Metric Synthetica

28 June 2012 | 2:26 pm | Brendan Telford

Synthetica may annoy some indie “purists”, but by embracing personal turmoil and New Wave euphoric, Metric has never sounded better.

The fifth LP by Canadian group Metric, Synthetica is immediately epic. There is a defiant aggression evident from the opening track, Artificial Nocturne, offering an ambient creep that explodes halfway through, and it's an atmosphere that the quartet maintains for the album's entirety. Single, Youth Without Youth, is an obvious one, driven by robotic vocal delivery by iconic frontwoman Emily Haines and hefty guitars strangled by James Shaw, propelled on electric rails by an insistent synth line that is dominant throughout. Dreams So Real is an effective, empowered track that explores the idea of nostalgia and influence in the face of apathy, whilst the faux-cuteness of Lost Kitten disguises an incredibly simple yet infectious pop track. The potentially off-putting duet with Lou Reed on penultimate track, The Wanderlust, works for the main due to the magnetic piano and Haines' saccharine counterpoint to Reed's warbling louche. The title track encroaches on being a rock song, further entrenching itself in the album's theme of society as artificial ephemera, Haines singing, “We're all the time confined to fit the mould…I'll keep the life that I've got”.

Haines is in the best form of her career, putting aside her gritty determinism for a performance that exudes confidence and sensuality. Her lyrics have turned inward, focusing on an identity crisis with the digital age, and the personal tone helps to crystallise Haines' powerful voice. Her bandmates augment this through Shaw's assured guitars, the oft-abrasive, sometimes affirming synths and keyboards, and the group's innate melodicism.

Synthetica may annoy some indie “purists”, but by embracing personal turmoil and New Wave euphoric, Metric has never sounded better.