Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Review: Metric - Fantasies (* * * 1/2)

Any band associated with Broken Social Scene runs the risk of being held to a ridiculously high standard of musical accomplishment. Of course, it's not really fair, or even worthwhile to make such comparisons, but for bands like Canada's Metric, it's difficult to escape them. Frontwoman Emily Haines and guitarist James Shaw are both contributors to the famed Indie collective, but are primarily known for their involvement with this more accessible electro-rock project that has seen its fair share of both critical acclaim and indifference. After a four year absence, the band is back with Fantasies, a collection of ten songs continuing the quartet's signature sound, full of epic pop hooks and Haines' smooth vocals.

Opening tracks - the intense, dramatic first single "Help I'm Alive" and the driving, catchy "Sick Muse" set the stage for the remainder of the record. Haines delivers her pointed lyrics with extra doses of sincerity and sarcasm in equal measure while the drums pound out simple beats over which the layers of guitars form walls of noise that build to grand explosions of sound. It's not exactly revolutionary, but Haines has a keen ear for melody and the band ably back her with sharp execution throughout the record. Though the songs on Fantasies are a bit uneven, there are enough shining moments here to justify some quality time with the album. The synth-heavy rocker "Gimme Sympathy," the shimmering "Collect Call," and the sparse, distant "Twighlight Galaxy" all succeed admirably and with style.

As good as much of Fantasies is, the latter half of the record feels scattered, as songs like the scuzzy "Front Row" and the noisy, messy closer "Stadium Love" contribute little toward what should have been a stronger finish. Here, the music feels forced and the lyrics lean toward more vapid generalities that leave the songs feeling strangely empty. Fortunately, the few misfires don't derail the entire project, and the record retains some decent replay value with Haines' crystal clear voice and edgy attitude holding things together. At times it's sexy, other times angry and bitter, but Fantasies is always catchy, confident, and just about crowded with hooks. Metric seem to be on an upward trend here; let's hope that holds.