With a wonderful letter to the fans, Emily Haines, lead voice of the Canadian rock band METRIC, announced the release of their fifth studio album Synthetica, and with it she already gave us a clue on what the record is all about: “Synthetica is about forcing yourself to confront what you see in the mirror when you finally stand still long enough to catch a reflection. Synthetica is about being able to identify the original in a long line of reproductions. Synthetica is about staying home and wanting to crawl out of your skin from the lack of external stimulation. It’s about what is real vs. what is artificial.” What she expressed with these words is more than a simple perception of the album’s main themes; however it is a very profound comment on the eternal search for authenticity and realness of art, artists and human creations in our modern world.
But what has happened to their minds since their last record Fantasies? Their 2008 real hit song Help I’m Alive was a tough and passionate affirmation of the vigor of being alive and adventuring in the world. The new album rather seems like a despairing contemplation about how the human mind is influenced by artificial – more precisely technological – versions of natural experiences and about how to live a stable life in this modern world so full of modification. Doubtlessly, the album is a smart and beautiful way of pondering about the meaning of art in our lives and the life itself, though it doesn’t really give any answers to the questions it raises. In the end it’s up to you and me to make sense of it all, only being accompanied by the music that will hopefully be there till the day we cease to breathe.
The record starts with the amazing Artificial Nocturne, a fragile and artistic song with a beautiful organ and painfully desperate lyrics. The opener’s tone is a pretty good foretaste of the whole album. Youth Without Youth, the first single release of the record, is such a powerful new wave-rock song that somehow reminds me on the dark drums and synths of DEPECHE MODE or MUSE. Great beginning, tuneful ending – a great track that describes a rotting society.
On the peppy Breathing Underwater, Emily Haines poses the ultimate desperate question: “Is this my life? Am I breathing underwater?” She sings it so adorably, her voice being so clear and sweet, that reality and illusion become blurred, which clearly implies this “artificial vs. natural” aspect of music. The lyrics and the sound of Dreams So Real are so epic that I’d describe it as an emotional hymn, dealing with self-criticism and regret. Lost Kitten marches to a different drummer, though its lyrics are still pretty dark. After a series of rebellious power tracks, Clone surprises with hopeful melodies and a catchy rhythm, and it reveals another side of Haines’ singer personality. What happens on the penultimate track mystified me in the beginning; however it turned out to be the perfect thing that could take place: Lou Reed, VELVET UNDERGROUND frontman, joins Emily Haines on the vocals. His voice is such a perfect complement to her singing, though The Wanderlust still seems to be a strange song after all. The album concludes with Nothing But Time, an inspiring dreamscape that spends some hope after the series of troubling, dark tracks, singing “I got nothing but time, so the future is mine.”
Synthetica is a powerful collection of indie-synth anthems that could be interpreted as a journey, from gloomy sentiments to slightly hopeful outlooks. In the end, one can only say so much about something that everybody has to feel and experience for themselves, so listen to the album and let your emotions run wild.
rock / pop / new wave
from Toronto, Canada