Album Review: Metric - 'Synthetica'

10 June 2012 | 5:31 pm | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

New Wave kids bring a passionate and ethereal effort.

Metric have been nothing short of pervasive. Formed in 1998, since 2003 they've sparked a steady release of quality, and moderately successful records. Synthetica is no different. Dropping on June 12th, the group released it for streaming over their Soundcloud, to much acclaim. 

The first thing that struck me about Synthetica is that it's a very long album ... truth be told, by two-thirds through the album, my attention span was waning. However, it is undoutbetdly worth the perserverance to listen to. The album starts somewhat sluggishly with "Artifical Nocturne", which is one of the album's weaker tracks. Perhaps a bad choice to start with, however, it is clear by the opening of the explosive second track, "Youth Without Youth" that the album is seriously picking up. Metric frontwoman Emily Haines's voice is as sultry, sexy and ethereal as ever. Like a modern answer to Deborah Harry, she works a mix of sexuality and spite around tightly written metaphors. The bass backing is gold, and whilst the synths are rather lazy at times, and they seem to make too much use of musical space, Metric definitely maintain their quality when it comes to their verses and catchy hooks. 

The album continues on a slightly softer note - introspective and complex, particularly on tracks three, four and five, which provide lashes of angst without being adolescent. On the eighth and title track, "Synthetica", pronounced bass tracks and guitar work coupled with a backbeat create a much more pronounced post-punk feeling but with soft and melodic synths... vaguely similar to Stereophonics. This backing, with Haines's nuanced vocals and crystal clear production makes for an incredible track that gains momentum as it was dropping. 

The album has it's next, and final peak on the second last track, "The Wanderlust", which features backup vocals from who, but The Velvet Undergound's Lou Reed. This is not what makes the track, however it is definitely a treat for the listeners. The song is expertly crafted, with just the right dynamics to make it soar about many of the others. The album finishes on a quiet note with the good-but-not spectacular "Nothing but Time".

Whilst I have a distaste for the press labelling the Canadian group "New Wave", I must agree with their general praise of this band. It's not usually my forte of music, nor is it the kind of album that you can blast without skipping a single track and love every minute of it, but it is certainly a good album, and Metric ought to be praised for their consistency... they've never released a "bad" album. For people who enjoy a female-fronted group that isn't trying so self-consciously to be "feisty" and "girl power", by all means give this a listen, you'll not be disappointed.