‘Artificial Nocturne’ opens the record and it could easily be Metric’s audible manifesto, it’s dark, as the title suggests, but it’s imbued with a sense of hope as the chords change up the scale into the heart of the track. As it starts the only thought in your head will be, “Fucking dreamy", and it’s a perfect return for the listener to Metric after the three year gap from their last album, Fantasies.
Vocalist Emily Haines is and always has been the most alluring aspect of Metric, she has a voice like no other female in music today; sultry and mysterious, deep and as heavy as a lead balloon, as airy and warm as a summers breeze, smooth and enigmatic; or to stop being a ponce about it she sounds angelic. As Haines sings her personality becomes apparent and it’s in those moments where Metric succeed, you want to get to know them as people and this is the only way. It’s damn near impossible not to fall in love with the idea of this woman and I defy you not to. Here, as usual, she lets the lyrics flow out of her like water from a fountain. Her ability to spin yarns with her lyrics, “Out of place all the time in a world that wasn’t mine, to take,” as well as do some of the most beautiful “Oohs,” and, “Aahs,” you’ll ever hear come from a human is what makes her great; she’s better than that Casio keyboard function you definitely messed about with in school.
Her voice, like the band itself, doesn’t appear to have much range, but what she does do she does perfectly. Never does she hit a duff note, she simply mixes her lethargic vocals; listen to her chant of “Scream becomes a yawn, I’ll shut up and carry on,” on ‘Dreams So Real’; with her unlikely soprano pitched pop vocals on a track like ‘Lost Kitten.’ These high pitched moments can often sound out of place, but they’re not, they’re just not as seductive or as naïve as the rest, in fact on the latter track she sounds sarcastic and preppy, but it’s what the song needs.
Synthetica is an album audibly darker than much of what Metric have released before, it’s less restless than a record like Live It Out and more self-expressive, but then again it is about being bored, unexcited, and discovering your true self. Not just lyrically, but audibly too it is clear that this is the sound of a more mature Metric. Even on a track like ‘The Wanderlust,’ which is easily one of the dullest songs here, the light scattering of synths and quick shredding of a six string gives the impression of antiquity. That’s not to say Metric sound old and unoriginal now, quite the contrary they sound well practiced and authoritative with James Shaw’s synths and theremin giving an aspect of eerie, otherworldly, youthful rejuvenation to the songs.
It’s actually astounding how structurally sound Metric’s song writing is, it makes me angry how good they are. They know just what to do and when to do it; they’re in control of every aspect of their work and are one of few bands who have broken away from the genre which spawned them. Aforementioned single ‘Youth Without Youth’ goes so far as to synthetically alter the vocals, it’s a very artificial song from a band that loves to play, it’s all very new wave, and yet it and all the tracks in the bands back catalogue are distinctly pop. Metric are a pop band and that’s absolutely fine. Besides new wave has always been associated with pop, it’s basically synth pop and Metric personify that perhaps more than any other mainstream band today. The grimy pulsing beats here are the sound of the future, the sound of altered organics; the main sound here isn’t actually a synth, but a 60’s organ played through a homemade pedal. It’s this ingenuity that makes Metric worth listening to. As emerging bands try to rehash the sounds of the past Metric use it to create something that is distinctly modern.
WATCH // 'Youth Without Youth'
This is a record which shows after 14 years together and nine years after the release of their debut album Metric are still as good and relevant as ever. Not everything about it is great, but then perfection is never as good as it seems, hell if they were perfect you wouldn’t want to hear another record with a chance of ruining that, but pitched at near perfect you always want to carry on listening. They’re one of few bands who consistently release good music, they’re not the in your face band you want to tell everyone about, they’re the band only your nearest and dearest know you love, because while it’s not a guilty pleasure it’s a quiet understanding that you heartily adore what they do. You never see Metric on ‘Best Of’ lists and it’s unlikely you’ll see Synthetica on any this year, but it doesn’t matter because what Metric do is far more permanent that than and once again they’ve proven they’ve got staying power.
If as Haines sings on ‘Breathing Under Water’; “They were right when they said we should never meet our heroes, when they bow at their feet in the end it wasn’t me,” then never do I want to meet Emily Haines.