I went through a phase where I really wanted to be Emily Haines, the BAMF frontwoman for Canadian rock band Metric. I wish I could say that this phase occurred when their first album came out 10 years ago, at a time when I was young enough that it might have been considered cute for me to aspire to be an existing celebrity, but this was last year. There’s something about her vocals that I really admire—she manages to alternate fluidly between self-assuredness and a type of vulnerability that makes her seem really relatable (the track “Help, I’m Alive” off the 2009 album Fantasies is a great example of this). Although I’ve managed to come to terms with the fact that I will probably never magically transform into Emily Haines, I was still excited when I found out that Metric had a new album—titled Synthetica—coming out this summer.
Synthetica (in my clearly unbiased opinion) does not disappoint. The sound isn’t particularly different from a lot of their earlier stuff and kind of reminds me of some of the big alt rock acts from the early 2000s, like The Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. In a summer that’s been dominated by overly-polished pop songs like Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”, though, I’ve found Metric’s fuzzy guitars and solid synthesizer hooks refreshing. And it’s the clever lyrics and Haines’ earnest delivery that really stand out to me. The first track on the album, “Artificial Nocturne”, begins with the line “I’m just as f***ed up as they say”, setting the tone for the rest of the album. The declaration isn’t a woeful one; rather, Haines seems to be delighting in the fact that she and her band are by no means perfect. They wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if they were.
My favorite tracks so far are “Artificial Nocturne”, the anthemic “Synthetica”, and “Lost Kitten”, a quirky song that features great lyrics like “I was looking for a hooker when I found you.” I’m actually less crazy about the first single, “Youth Without Youth”, which I think leans a bit too much on an ’80s glam rock sound to the point that it’s kind of a caricature. The single does have some really interesting lines, though, like “double dutch with a hand grenade” and “rubber soul with a razor blade”, and it strikes me as the type of song that will grow on me after a few more listens.
I’d say there isn’t really one stand-out track on Synthetica, and that comment is by no means meant to diminish the album. Its 11 tracks are all solid and although it’s not a concept album, I think Metric does a good job of establishing a particular character that’s consisent all the way through. It’s an album that I believe will hold up well to repeat listens, and I’m anticipating having it on heavy rotation this summer.
I haven’t really decided on a review system yet—and let’s face it, is assigning the album an arbitrary number out of another number really necessary?–so for now I’m just going to rank it as 8 stars out of rainbow.
If you’re interested, you can currently stream the album over at Stereogum.