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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