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Album Review: Metric - Synthetica

4 July 2012 | 5:40 pm | Christopher H James

Metric clearly quest for perfectly-formed sonic architecture, which from the brooding Artificial Nocturne to Breathing Underwater they more or less nail.

Inspired by Philip K Dick's Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, sci-fi nerd with impeccable cheek bones and Metric main woman Emily Haines has forwarded the dream-concept of “synthetica” – an artificial skin for a vastly superior female replicant. As a metaphor for Metric's production, it's more or less on the money; imagine a glistening silicone surface that seductively masks an intelligent, metronomic engine, with hints of human input.

Metric clearly quest for perfectly-formed sonic architecture, which from the brooding Artificial Nocturne to Breathing Underwater they more or less nail. This is for the most part successfully aligned with Haines' songwriting and sense of drama, brought to life with skills such as switching personas through subtle vocal inflections. It's particularly effective on Youth Without Youth where her mischievous but restrained purr keeps the tension consistently bubbling under. Less engaging is her disaffected Barbie whine on Lost Kitten, yet it's another good example of her deft storytelling, as ever populated with characters from some kind of teenage, sci-fi pop-opera.

In describing the sound of these songs, the word “epic” can not be used enough – it's like U2 meets The Arcade Fire for a feature directed by Michael Bay. Unfortunately, the latter half of the album is noticeably less epic, and poorer for it. Nonetheless, there's enough quality in the first half to earn Synthetica some serious chart time. As to whether Haines is an acerbic, witty songwriter from Toronto, or a lifelike cyborg beamed back in time to shape the future of stadium-sized indie anthems, that remains unknown.