Synthetica – Metric




Metric Music International

Metric’s fifth studio album, Synthetica, offers a cohesive effort which looks into the binary idea of artificiality versus a natural state.  As front-woman Emily Haines stated before the album dropped, Synthetica is about being able to identify the original in a long line of reproductions” — a kind of spiritual successor to the concept behind Rubber Soul, The Beatles album which took its name from the term “plastic soul.”  This separation of what’s real and artificial abounds on Metric’s new album, seeping into the lyrics, the music, and even the artwork of the album (the lyrics and track listing are in backwards text, a playful representation of a reflection) .

It’s no surprise that Haines’ vocals revolve around this dichotomy.  Her contralto singing style proves both saccharine and aggressive, a peculiarity that adds character to her catchy melodies.  On Synthetica, Haines uses all of her vocal prowess, at times being ambivalent, such as on lead single “Youth Without Youth,” and at times being playful, like on pseudo-sensual “Lost Kitten.”  The production effects add layers of value to the singing; swirling double-tracked vocals, provocative backup harmonies, and even subtle auto-tune (“The Wanderlust”) really drive home the theme of replications and absoluteness.  “The Wanderlust,” the penultimate track, features a duet with legendary Lou Reed, in some of his best form, only adding to layers upon layers upon layers.

Yeah, I have no joke here — I just really love Emily Haines.

The music on Synthetica offers up a longing to be broken down to its core parts.  James Shaw leads the band with its glossy production value, while still feeling natural.  The dance-rock is copied directly out of Blondie’s playbook, as listeners can hear the influence of “Heart of Glass.”  Synths and reverberated guitars carry a lot of weight on Synthetica, and yet they’re only contrasted by the pounding drums and distorted chugging guitars.  Definitely give a listen to “Breathing Underwater” where the band sounds comfortable with the cyclical arrangement building into a layered climax.

Most apparently, the lyrics seem to control the subject of self-separation, seeking answers in the content.  Album opener “Artificial Nocturne” shows the band reaching into almost experimental territory, and Haine’s echoed vocals over the minimalistic music only enhance what she’s singing: “Got false lights for the Sun / it’s an artificial nocturne / it’s an outsider’s escape for a broken heart.”  On “Youth Without Youth,” her apathetic “It was a long joke ’til the punchline came” plays on multiple levels: the older self realizing youth is coming to an end while a younger snark plays up the feeling of eternal juvenescence.  At the same time, so of the other songs provide other views into the act of maturing, almost as if Haines is beginning to coalesce differing viewpoints on getting older, even while pitting them against each other: the wonderful “Dreams So Real” provides a repeated mantra of “I’ll shut up and carry on / The scream becomes a yawn,” while the aforementioned “Lost Kitten” uses its adolescent lust to portray the lines “Hit me where it hurts, I’m coming home to lose / Kitten on the catwalk, high-heeled shoes.”  However, it’s not until the title track that Haines finally reaches a haphazard denouement, “Hey, I’m not synthetica / I’ll keep the life that I’ve got.”

Overall, Synthetica does present a cultivated view of the multiple “selves,” which is ultimately what the album is about: the chance to explore how one displays one’s personality and the multiple copies of an identity.  While there are some low points on Metric’s release (it’s not a perfect record, most notably getting lost in the sub-par mundanity of “Clone,” which is just okay), it still manages to be an interesting and entertaining study of dualism and memetic reproduction.  Synthetica contains thoughtful lyrics, well-arranged and written songs, and very talented vocals.  It’s an album which lends itself to multiple listenings, it’s freshness not losing anything after the original listen-through, which, let’s face it, is a real feat which pits origins against reflectiveness.


3 Responses to “Synthetica – Metric”

  1. […] album that I’ve already reviewed,  Synthetica was dark and catchy at the same time.  A study in reality and artificiality, this […]

  2. […] band was introduced to me by Ryan, actually, and they’re indie rock and pretty awesome. First heard at one of our music nights, […]

  3. […] Album of 2012 This is a no-brainer, it’s Synthetica by Metric. definitely check out Ryan’s review of it if you haven’t listened yet. It’s […]

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