by jon ledoux

“Is it ever gonna be enough?” Emily Haines asks halfway through Fantasies, Metric’s new album dropped today via the band’s self distribtuion operation and Last Gang Records in Canada. The answer resoundingly is yes. Metric’s prominence on the outskirts of the music scene this decade has been building around their reputation as stellar live performers who imbue their New Wave-rock with lyrics and instrumentation that are alternately droll and robust.

Artist: Metric
Song: Help, I’m Alive

, the band’s follow up to 2005’s Live it Out, finds Metric staying the course and creating a fresh crop of songs that strike the balance between lead singer Emily Haines’ emotion-driven songwriting, and co-founder James Shaw’s rhythmic, chunky guitars.

Like many of their local contemporaries, YYYs, TV on the Radio, and by default Broken Social Scene, Metric combines two of the decades’ most popular trends in order to create a sound both familiar and unique. Firstly, they use one of the decade’s most trusted musical devices and lean towards the dance floor. Never is there a misstep in the music. Everything feels organized and exact. The music rarely is murky, instead the preciseness of the instrumentation allows the music to snake and twist the melody into propulsive dance-beats. And secondly, Emily Haines’ use of darkly symbolic lyrics ties the record to this decade where words become less about storytelling than about revealing a greater theme through metaphor.

First single “Help! I’m Alive,” for example, lyrically gives the impression that the singer is trapped in a mine shaft or buried under rubble. This is only implied, however, as we the audience never hear the specifics of the predicament. Instead we are left to fill in the void with our imagination. The sense of claustrophobia is communicated through the music and the lyrics allow us to decide what it is we need to be saved from.

Likewise, standout tracks “Sick Muse” and “Twilight Galaxy” fuse the two styles together in various ways. “Sick Muse’s” vicious lyrical come-ons serve as tool to distant the audience emotionally while the music forces you to dance. “Everybody everybody just wanna fall in love, everybody everybody just wanna play the lead.” Haines allows us to hope by suggesting that no one succeeds. Closing track “Stadium Love” summarizes this ethos with “Every little thing, pushed into the ring, fight it out to wow the crowd, guess you thought, you could just watch, but no one’s getting out.” Everyone has their fantasies but reality will come crashing down, there is no way out.

Artist: Metric
Song: Gimme Sympathy (acoustic @ coachella)

Like the band’s previous albums, not every track is a success. The beautiful melody and pulsing drums of “Gimme Sympathy” are ruined by Haines’ sentimental lyrics. “Who would you rather be, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?” Yuck. Drivel. I’d rather Metric be Metric without the gushy lyrics. Similarly, for all the emotional heft of the music and chorus of “Stadium Love” the verses are trite and oversimplified. “Wanna make a trade, cougar for a snake, wanna fall in love.” It feels like the lyrics Jewel was writing when she was sixteen and homeless. Ms. Haines is better than this. Which is puzzling considering that four years on hiatus and one and a half depressing yet necessary solo albums were not enough time to strengthen the lyrical content across Fantasies.

That is not to say that the overall joy of Fantasies is lost by a few missteps. Hardly, the album flows well from beginning to end, there are no disposable tracks, and the melodies and hooks sneak into your subconscious, whispering for repeated listens. Metric have always been true to themselves–by having one foot on the dance floor and one foot in Williamsburg they have found the perfect balance. It may not be everyone’s ideal fantasy, but for Metric it certainly fits.

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