Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Metric: "Synthetica" (album review)

I don't think it's an overstatement to say that Metric's Synthetica is one of the most highly-anticipated Canadian release of the year.  June 12th has been circled on many calendars.

There has been an electronic component to Metric's music from the very beginning.  On Synthetica they attempt to move it further into the spotlight, becoming a feature.  Those attempts tend to fall far short of realizing their goals, as Metric seem far too timid (or possibly self-conscious) in their efforts.

Electronic music doesn't need to be soulless or uninteresting.  Unfortunately, most of Synthetica is just that.  There's little modulation between the songs; many take place on the same midtempo, non-melodic, hook-free plateau ("Breathing Underwater", "The Void", "Clone", "Nothing But Time").

Even Emily Haines' voice, arguably the most charming element of Metric's music, suffers in this style.  It's overly processed, often echoy, and nearly completely stripped of it's humanity ("Artificial Nocturne").

All of the negatives culminate in one inglorious concoction: "Dreams So Real".  Off-putting production gimmicks, bland listless arrangement, and no sense of direction or tension make for a track that is nearly impossible to feel invested in.

A few moments do stand out for successfully employing the electronics.  On "Youth Without Youth" the synths are used to create an uncharacteristically raw and gritty sound.  A lighter application turns "Lost Kitten" into a fun, bouncy number.  It also powers the celebratory "The Wanderlust".

When all is said and done I expect a lot more out of a band that's been as engaging historically as Metric.  Therefore, I can't help but classify Synthetica as one of the most disappointing albums of 2012 so far.

Best tracks: "Youth Without Youth", "The Wanderlust"

Track listing for Synthetica:
  • Artificial Nocturne
  • Youth Without Youth
  • Speed The Collapse
  • Breathing Underwater
  • Dreams So Real
  • Lost Kitten
  • The Void
  • Synthetica
  • Clone
  • The Wanderlust
  • Nothing But Time

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