Metric’s shimmery precision

Synthetica (Mom + Pop Music, 2012)
Produced by Gavin Brown, John O’Mahony, Liam O’Neil and James Shaw

Reviewed by Chris Ho

Metric’s slow rise to the top has been an inspiring sight for fans and musicians alike. Notably, their previous release, Fantasies, earned them Juno Alternative Album of the Year as well as Alternative Band of the Year. Now, having charted at number two on the Canadian albums for their latest single “Youth Without Youth,” they have once again been short-listed for the Polaris Music Prize, this time for Synthetica.

Formed in 1998, Metric has had a long and prosperous life thus far. Touring on the heels of their fifth studio album, which has just as much to offer as the last one, they are showing no signs of slowing down. While many older bands often face the conundrum of continuously producing music that lives up to their previous releases, Metric has tactfully avoided this tragedy with style and glamour.

Standing by their signature guitar and keyboard hooks that are tightly synced with the meticulously produced rhythmic grids, the album is musically compatible with their previous albums, and yet still offers a fresh artistic vision. It’s that same stylish and classy indie rock-and-roll that their adoring fans were hoping for.

The album opens with a much darker and more experimental track than one might expect from the band, although it’s probably meant to showcase their ability to transcend the rock-pop vibe that they often abide by. But it isn’t long before it rolls perfectly into track two, “Youth Without Youth,” where they snap right back on to the tight rhythmic grid that encapsulates the pure precision and straight-ahead indie rock that is Metric.

And admittedly there’s some comfort in hearing that transition, although it doesn’t mean that the rest of the album continues to unfold exactly how you might expect. “Breathing Underwater” almost seems like the modern revamp of U2’s “With Or Without You,” with its similar bass line and tastefully delayed guitar. This is followed by a couple more curveballs, where Emily Haines feminizes her voice ironically in “Lost Kitten,” and then does a duet with Lou Reed (of all people) in “The Wanderlust.”

But whether the track in question is leaning toward the gloomy or the shimmery, Synethica as a whole pulls through as a manufactured masterpiece that is fully deserving of its Polaris Music Prize nomination.

Chris Ho is a UVic graduate and Victoria-based singer-songwriter.