Archive for Metric

Why we never quite got around to reviewing that Metric album

Posted in Observations with tags on August 15, 2012 by softsynth

There are times we find ourselves heading down that road of wondering “is this electronic music”, and our default is usually toward the “yes if it’s got synths up front as the dominant instrument” end of things, but sometimes it’s still very unclear.

One of the albums we’ve reviewed that had readers up saying, “that ain’t part of the club, it doesn’t belong” was Metric’s terrific Fantasies which was our #5 electronic album of the year on our year-end best of list in 2009. It was around that time that some started suggesting Softsynth considers anything with a keyboard in it electronic music. And while it’s true we cast a wide net to inclusively open the definition, there are albums who play in our yard without being invited inside the house.

Bottom line, when we listened through Metric’s new album Synthetica, which we did an awful lot, one could not help but be struck that this was very much a middle-of-the-road rock album with some keyboards prominently used here and there. So we didn’t review it here (short version if we had – a little soulless and doesn’t pack the punch of the last album but with a few notable highlights). There are a few tracks we could have pulled out to review in isolation (which not coincidentally are among the strongest tracks of the album like “Dreams so Real” and “The Void”) but that’s not how we approach albums around this here place.

So some asked who no Metric review. That’s why.

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Back to the debate – are these “electronic” artists.

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , on May 4, 2012 by softsynth

It’s gone in circles. In fact practically since this blog began three and a half years ago we set out to try to expand the discussion.

As a fan of all forms of electronic music this blogger wanted to talk about as wide a palette as possible, from whispery ambient to pur laine synth pop to hard industrial. And in that mix are those bands who exude an electronic ethos but may use drums, or may even use guitars (were it not for O.M.D. we would say one should draw the line at bass…), and when we called Metric or Bat for Lashes or Polly Scattergood albums among the best electronic albums in their year, some took umbrage. So it is that every now and then we hear a band that becomes a favourite and has a distinct sound, in many cases borrowing a cup of sugar from the electronic movement and we can’t help but think, how would the purists label this?

This is top of mind right now with a new Metric album on the horizon (and we are most excited, though it should be said that tremendous new single  “Youth Without Youth” is decidedly anything but electronic), and we cant help but wonder what we’re going to get from the talented Canadians this time around. In the meantime, three bands (because it seems we always do things in threes here at Softsynth HQ) we’re loving right now are not obviously electronic bands but what are they exactly? Continue reading

Yeah, so what exactly *is* this “electronic music” anyway?

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , on December 22, 2009 by softsynth

One of the most compelling aspects of writing a blog on a topic as specific as a particular genre of music is the debate that can erupt over a given choice of word, a definition, an inclusion or exclusion from a list, on the part of devoted, perhaps passionate, perhaps utterly nutso fan of said genre. We have seen a lot of that around here lately in either emails to this blogger, comments on the blog itself, or most entertainingly, on message boards of a particular band as fans of that band pick apart our every utterance, for good or ill, about said band. Our traffic quadrupled and stayed there following our best of the decade lists and best of the year list, and we have found our thoughts shared via twitter or on web sites or message boards and many of the questions raised are genuinely fascinating and astute. Continue reading

The Softsynth 2009 Playlist (songs of the year ’09)

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2009 by softsynth

So this will be the last in the long line of “lists” for the year. We had mused about doing up a “best singles of the year list”

and were both overwhelmed by the task at hand and felt persnickety about the notion of being limited to just singles.

The era of the single is definitely upon us what with the death of the CD as the last remaining form of “physical” music and the growth of iTunes culture, but damn it, Softsynth is a creature from the age of album appreciation and the best songs are so often not the tracks sent out to be appreciated by the masses, but those that remain buried in the outer confines of an album. (That said many of the best songs

released there were, indeed, singles, so we’re not limiting ourselves here). It’s what made for the great mixed tapes of yore. (And for those of a certain age, too young for the pure album era of the 70s, but older than those who know only the MP3 era, the mixed tape was a crucial part of our musical upbringing. we created our own playlists, as a kind of precursor to the era we increasingly find ourselves in today via one-off MP3 downloads, but with tracks culled from albums or singles as we saw fit, depending on our mood at a given time.)

This is literally the only time through the year that we open things up to acknowledge the best stuff from various genres, not just electronic music (and in our next post we will revisit the question of what exactly constitutes so-called “electronic music”).We will paint with a wider brush just to fully colour in the year. So away we go, the singles of the year, er, songs of the year, uh…no, the “2009 Softsynth playlist”…

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The Best Electronic Albums of 2009

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2009 by softsynth

Finally recovered from the exhaustion of compiling the decade’s best electronic albums, we now turn our attention to the best of this year. Two changes to the initial plans. We had reported earlier we were going to do an all-genre-inclusive list, as we did last year on this blog and as we have in previous years in the earlier incarnation of the blog. Given the huge number of predominantly electronic albums that were released this year, or more specifically, the large number of great electronic albums, we have done an about-face and will stay true to the blog’s mandate and share what we think are the best of the year – electronic only. (The only two albums clearly effected by this change are the exceptional new works from The Dead Weather and Placebo, and we’ll hear from them elsewhere, see below…; and as always the definition of “electronic” is somewhat loose – see our own definition in an earlier post.)

Second change, we had also mused about doing a singles of the year list. Ha, we say. Ha! Overwhelmed with the sheer number of exceptional singles we throw in the towel. Simply too onerous. We will instead do the 2009 Softsynth playlist – all genres this time and not just singles but album tracks too. Despite the move to a singles society thanks to iTunes and the like, we still look to album tracks for some of the most interesting, challenging work out there. Those songs, electronic and otherwise that have blown us away or just kept us moving throughout the year will make up the official Softsynth playlist. We’ll get to said playlist soon enough, for now, the best in 2009 electronic albums… Continue reading

Review: Metric – Fantasies

Posted in Review with tags , on April 29, 2009 by softsynth

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. 

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