The 00´s has been a fabulous time for Canadian indie music giving rise to heaps of great bands, often interacting and collaborating with each other in numerous projects. Broken Social Scene is perhaps the best example, a sprawling musical collective that at one time or other has incorporated almost the entire Canadian indie music royalty – people like Leslie Feist, Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell of Stars, as well as Metric founding members Emily Haines and James Shaw.
Formed in 1998 by Haines and Shaw, after the latter´s return to Toronto following a three year classical music education at Juilliard, this band has carved out a place for themselves as melodically intrinsic pop mavericks. First effort ”Grow up and blow away” had a difficult gestation, initial recordings done in London 2000, finished in the US and not officially released until 2007. Dominated by piano and drum machines the album showed two already accomplished musicians and songwriters, and while the melodies were there the effortless flow of later works were not.
Actual debut “Old world underground, where are you now?” (2003) was recorded by a band augmented by new members Joshua Winstead and Joules Scott-Key on bass and drums respectively. The album saw Metric develop into a band proper instead of a solo vehicle for Haines and Shaw, upping the ante both concerning songwriting and playing. Interesting but not fantastic, this is still a work showing much promise, and containing several really good songs. As such it accomplished the goal of increasing the interest for this group which would swiftly move on to greater things.
2005´s “Live it out” was my introduction to the group, and their first absolutely flawless album. Heavier on guitars than previous output and with tremendously developed songwriting. Here Emily Haines´ vocals finally reach the sensual heights only hinted at on earlier recordings. This collection of tracks has everything you could possibly wish for from a pop record. No matter how much work you´ve put into making a song, the trick of the best ones is to sound totally effortless, something this album has in spades. In addition, only an intelligent frontwoman pretty sure of herself would go into the minefield of playing with her femininity in a video like this one.
“Fantasies” (2009) continued in a guitar-driven direction further honing the crafting of songs, “Sick muse” not only being a highlight of the band but also of the year. This is everything that a pop song should be. Attitude, melodic flow, slick arrangement and singing that´s sexy as hell. At the time probably their most coherent and realized album, with songs of incredibly high quality. In every way a band achieving mastery of their expression and a rare joy for the listener. A record still on pretty heavy rotation on my CD-player, for obvious reasons.
“Synthetica” released in 2012 begins with the words “I´m just as fucked up as they say, I can´t fake the daytime, I found an entrance to escape into the dark”, in opening song “Artificial nocturne”. Dominated by keyboards this sets the tone and is both a return to origins and a new direction with a larger and sort of complete sound. According to leading lady Haines an album “about forcing yourself to confront what you see in the mirror when you finally stand still long enough to catch a reflection”.
“Youth without youth” blends synthpop with glam rock drums and edgy guitars into a sparkling whole, while “Speed the collapse” could be likened to poppy darkwave. “Breathing underwater” shimmers and builds towards a large and untypically epic chorus. Ballad “Dreams so real” is powered by deep and distorted synths, offset by Haines´ sensual voice. A simple, throbbing rhythm drives “Lost Kitten” which is saved from tedium by a floating chorus. “The void” is a modern take on 80´s synth pop, giving way to title song “Synthetica”. Absolutely one of the stand-out tracks, elegantly unifying the band´s previous guitar dominated sound with these new electronic influences, as well as being a great example of their songwriting powers. Why doesn´t all bands sound like this?
“Clone” echoes so much of the music I listened to in the late 80´s, sweet but not that remarkable. Quite the opposite could be said of “The Wanderlust” which goes off into several beautiful and exciting directions at once, while sporting a surprise appearance by the late Lou Reed. A fine build-up for closer “Nothing but time” which finishes the album in style – “I got nothing but time so the future is mine”. Majestic and melodic.
This collection of songs certainly shows a change in sound for Metric, and it will be very interesting to see what road they choose to go down in the future. Let´s just hope that they´ll drop the mirror-image printing idea. Must have seemed cool at the time but quickly becomes tedious. That said, still one of my favourite bands who can always restore my faith in the fun of pop music when everything seems grey and derivative.