Review of Metric’s album ‘Fantasies’ released through Metric Music International.
Four years is a long time in music, so long in fact that it would be easy to forget about an artist with only a marginal success rate in commercial terms. What sets Emily Haines and her band Metric aside however, is the fact that despite the obvious pop aesthetic within their music, there’s so much more than calculated unit-shifting policies to enamour them to the underground set that would normally dismiss this kind of thing with the flutter of an eyelid.
Of course, fluttering eyelids and carefully engineered pouts may just be two of the reasons why Ms. Haines is so popular; if we’re being cynical at least. Her role with Canadian independent collective Broken Social Scene having become less prominent over time, while Metric have been described by some detractors as a band who only exist to make music for American teen soap operas, something their music has soundtracked on various occasions it must be said. All in all then, it has been anything but plain sailing, and we’ve not even got on to the fact Metric have never been able to settle down with one label either, for whatever reason be it within their control or otherwise.
Their attraction can also be pinpointed as their downfall. The fact they’ve never really fit into or focused on any one particular scene can be commended, and probably helps explain why they’ve reached album number four despite never really justifying their undoubted sales potential, yet at the same time it could also be argued that this largely uncharacteristic approach has assured their longevity. What cannot be denied is that 2005’s ‘Live It Out’ was their breakthrough record as far as gaining critical recognition is concerned, and the likes of ‘Monster Hospital’ and ‘Poster Of A Girl’ are still staples on the alternative club circuit today. The course and direction attained on ‘Live It Out’ also appears to have given Metric some additional focus, and that is resplendent throughout ‘Fantasies’.
One thing Metric have in abundance and yet for some reason remain criminally understated are a plethora of huge, stadium-sized choruses, and the first three songs here all ride along on the crest of insistent, throwaway yet infectious middle-eights that would be standard daytime radio fare in a parallel universe. ‘Help I’m Alive’ and ‘Sick Muse’ are possibly the most accessible songs Haines and co. have penned to date, yet one suspects they’ll still be criminally overlooked by those responsible for controlling what Joe Public hears on the airwaves. Then there’s the deft sincerity of ‘Blindness’, a self-referential composition where Haines opines “I was the one with the world at my feet” over opulent synths that add a distinguished edge to ‘Fantasies’ just as the saccharine taste of bittersweet pop was starting to take its toll.
Better still is the album’s midpoint and recent single ‘Gimme Sympathy’, which starts almost acoustically before building up in parts along the same lines as Asobi Seksu’s ‘Thursday’ into a captivating slice of ethereal beauty that highlights the obvious potential well within Metric’s capable grasp. Certainly as unexpected moments go, this is by far their most ambitious four minutes to date, and perhaps indicates the kind of route album number five may steer towards…
Overall, ‘Fantasies’ is a solid collection of songs and a welcome return for Haines and Metric that few outside of their close community could have expected. Let’s hope the wait isn’t quite as prolonged for their next instalment…
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