Review: Metric – Fantasies

I am a Canadian and proudly so, but it hasn’t always been easy being a fan of electronic music living here.

In the late 80s and early 90s I hosted a radio show on the campus/community radio station, one that focused on alternative pop and electronic music, called Industrial Poetry (yeah, yeah, I was young and pretentious…). In Canada radio has to play something called “Canadian content” which translates to a certain percentage of one’s playlist having to adhere to a complicated formula that determines a songs “Canadian-ness” involving a cross-section of artist, producer, songwriter, and other factors (so convoluted that Canadian Bryan Adams had an album out around that time that wasn’t considered “CanCon” because other than his being, you know, “Canadian”, the album (I forget which one, I couldn’t name a Bryan Adams album if my life depended on it) didn’t have enough of the other criteria. 

I digress (badly). Bottom line was on my show I was fortunate to have the midnight to 2AM slot on Saturday nights, which meant I had to play only 10% CanCon instead of the much higher percentage shows on before midnight had to honour. This translated to two songs a week. And I had a hell of a time reaching even that goal (you can only play Manufacture’s “As the End Draws Near”, KonKan’s “I Beg Your Pardon”, and assorted tracks by Skinny Puppy, Moev and Front Line Asssemby so many times). In the pre-internet days (yes kids there was such a time) it was next to impossible to find Canadian material that would have fit in to the kind of format I played and as a result I developed a passionate negative reaction to the very idea of Canadian music. Canadian music didn’t mean anything I could or would have wanted to listen to. 

These days I feel spoiled and half wished I still did my radio show. Dragonete, Ayria, Psyche, Conjure One, the Birthday Massacre, even Beast among many more are producing great, high-quality, accessible electronic music. Go Canada!

One of the jewels in the Canadian electro crown is Metric. Emily Haines in her many guises never fails to impress but it’s with Metric that her visions are most fully realized. Their new album, Fantasies, is certainly their slickest, and I’d say perhaps their best album to date. 

Haines has said repeatedly that this album was a difficult one for her to write and that comes out in the often-tortured lyrics, but it’s oh so affecting. Largely a rock album, the pace is thrilling, barreling from bang-up lead-off single, “Help, I’m Alive” to “Satellite Mind” to the noise explosion of “Stadium Love”. Drum machines are more prominent than on their previous effort, Live it Out, and it works sometimes propelling the songs forward, other times creating a sparseness that allows the listener to focus on Haines’ lovely vocals and sometimes-haunting, and always gloomy lyrics. 

There’s a nice mix here. The band veer toward the electronic on tracks like the mid tempo album stand-out “Twilight Galaxy”, then all the way back toward more conventional rock on the very next track, “Sick Muse”. Their musical versatility is breathtaking, though to fans of the band this isn’t anything new and while it’s a great back and forth within the confines of the album itself it doesn’t blaze any kind of new trail. 

They know how and when to slow it down nicely when the album requires a change of pace. The moving “Collect Call” and the moody closer, “Blindness” showcase a more thoughtful approach to melody that anchors the album effectively. 

Fantasies doesn’t bring a whole lot new to the table. They aren’t exactly breaking new ground with this set but it doesn’t matter. They bring a new maturity to this party that emboldens the songs and makes a good thing that much better. This is a band that has found a formula that simply works beautifully and they’re squeezing what they can out it. So much the better for us.

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One Response to “Review: Metric – Fantasies”

  1. Not heard Metric before, but this album’s new on Spotify so will give it a listen.

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