Plumbiferous Media

Fantasies - Metric

Apr 12th 2009
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Fantasies - MetricMetric
Score: 89

Met­ric has had a some­what mixed past: com­pare “Grow Up and Blow Away” from the album of the same title, to “IOU” (Old World Under­ground, Where Are You) and “Com­bat Baby” (the same album), to “Poster of a Girl” (Live It Out) - and those are prob­a­bly Met­ric’s strongest tracks from those albums. They had shown them­selves to be a clear­ly com­pe­tent, if occa­sion­al­ly mis­guid­ed band, but not much else. How­ev­er, with their newest release, Fan­tasies, Met­ric clear­ly stepped up its game a notch. Quite sim­ply, Fan­tasies is a great album.

The weak­est part of Fan­tasies is prob­a­bly the instru­men­tals, and the fact that they are quite strong is only tes­ta­ment to the strength of the album. Some tracks go on just long enough for the synth that makes up the back­ing of that track to become too sta­t­ic, but in gen­er­al, even the most repet­i­tive (and boy, is there rep­e­ti­tion on this album) sounds, such as those present on the last minute or two of “Gold Guns Girls,” are used incred­i­bly well, and are any­thing but boring.

Also on “Gold Guns Girls” is an instance of one of the best musi­cal inno­va­tions that the album has to offer: some line will start, and anoth­er line will come in in such a man­ner as to make the lis­ten­er believe that the two will remain in uni­son. Some­times a third comes in as well. What hap­pens then is that the lines inge­nious­ly shift into a coun­ter­pun­tal har­mo­ny for each oth­er. Even the per­cus­sion and vocals join in on this in “Gold Guns Girls,” and “Sick Muse” respectively.

And speak­ing of per­cus­sion, Joules Scott-Key does an amaz­ing job of inte­grat­ing his knack for near­ly melod­ic drum-lines with the rhyth­mic sec­tion on which the album clear­ly relies heav­i­ly. And even though there are clear hall­marks of Fan­tasies, i.e. rep­e­ti­tion, coun­ter­point, rep­e­ti­tion, a slight under­abun­dance of bass, and rep­e­ti­tion, Met­ric still does a great job of vary­ing the sound it pro­duces (see the neigh­bor­ing tracks: “Col­lect Call,” and “Front Row”).

But what might be the best part of Fan­tasies is the con­stant use of what might seem like bad ideas in words, but some­how turn out incred­i­bly well. The album is quite obvi­ous­ly over­laden with rep­e­ti­tion, but it works quite well, as clear­ly seen on “Help, I’m Alive;” “Satel­lite Mind,” makes sur­pris­ing­ly strong use of vocals that will­ful­ly stray out of tune (but only for a moment). In fact, two tracks deserve indi­vid­ual men­tion: “Help, I’m Alive,” and “Blind­ness.” “Help, I’m Alive” is clear­ly not the most musi­cal track ever cre­at­ed, and yet, aside from one of the sec­tions, which falls flat when com­pared to the oth­ers, Met­ric man­ages to invoke such an amaz­ing­ly high lev­el of emo­tion and mean­ing in the track that the quite spooky image it paints is clear­ly vis­i­ble. “Blind­ness” is not the most exit­ing track on the album, and in fact, it is prob­a­bly the one with the most rep­e­ti­tion over­all, and yet, it comes togeth­er amaz­ing­ly. If Met­ric can work anoth­er sin­gle out of this album, we sin­cere­ly hope it will be “Blind­ness.”

Emi­ly Haines’s vocals are eas­i­ly one of the best parts of Fan­tasies. Alter­nate­ly deep, airy, ener­getic, and incred­i­bly rich, they always retain a grip­ping qual­i­ty which ties togeth­er the entire album and gives the lyrics extra import. Haines’s vocals pos­sess a strik­ing lev­el of emo­tion, which gives Fan­tasies impres­sive inten­si­ty. At no point do the vocals become grat­ing or irri­tat­ing. Instead, they remain an inte­gral part of the album, respon­si­ble for the man­ner in which it flows so well. Vocal­ly, Haines has done excel­lent work here, and that work is even more impres­sive when paired with the well-writ­ten lyrics.

Right at the very begin­ning of the album, with the beau­ti­ful­ly dynam­ic “Help, I’m Alive,” the lyri­cal qual­i­ty is clear. It’s cer­tain­ly true that Met­ric relies on rep­e­ti­tion on many of their tracks, but it’s pre­vent­ed from becom­ing tire­some by changes in lines which seem minute, but which result in pro­found changes in the way lines are per­ceived. In “Help, I’m Alive,” the line “Help I’m alive / My heart keeps beat­ing like a ham­mer” is an excel­lent exam­ple of this. The line is present through the track, but exe­cut­ed in com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent ways, from its straight­for­ward treat­ment at the begin­ning of the track to the ascend­ing, emo­tion­al cries lat­er on the track.

How­ev­er, the lyri­cal strength of Fan­tasies is not only in catchy lines. The elec­tron­ic-themed back­ing gives the music a qua­si-tech/hor­ror feel­ing which lends itself to the thought-pro­vok­ing sto­ries of the album, from “Satel­lite Mind,” where Haines sings of “send[ing] vibra­tions / In your direc­tion / From the satel­lite mind,” to per­haps the best-writ­ten track on the album, “Blind­ness.” On that track, Haines sings the sto­ry of the reluc­tant “sur­vivors,” who call to the world “Send us a blind­fold / Send us a blade.” Plac­ing her­self in the role of one of the “sur­vivors,” Haines laments “I want to leave / But the world won’t let me go,” exclaim­ing “You gave me a life / I nev­er chose,” open­ing the ques­tion of whether the track speaks of an exit from life or sim­ply from the sit­u­a­tion of the “sur­vivors.” Either way, it’s an enthralling tale, and one which Met­ric has cre­at­ed expertly.

On Fan­tasies, Met­ric has eas­i­ly sur­passed their ear­li­er albums with an excel­lent effort. Com­bin­ing excel­lent vocals, deep and com­plex lyrics and beau­ti­ful­ly exe­cut­ed over­all sound, Fan­tasies is not only a very good piece of work for Met­ric but a very good album across the board. No part of the album drags, and every part is com­posed such as to com­prise an intri­cate but ele­gant, light but deep, and incred­i­bly well done album. Fan­tasies is eas­i­ly one of the best albums which has come out this year, and we expect it to show up on quite a few top 10 lists come December.

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