It's finally here. Fellow Canadians and indie-synth rock icons Metric, led by Emily Haines' sublime talent, are all set to release 'Synthetica' tomorrow, three long years after their last studio album 'Fantasies'.
In her typically ernest fashion Emily Haines announced the arrival of Metric's fifth studio album Synthetica with a letter to fans that was very clear on the album's main themes: "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. It's about what is real vs what is artificial."
The search for the authentic has long been one of the central quests of art but with the dawn of the internet and its digital representation of reality, the importance of this challenge becomes ever more obvious. For musicians from an analog/pre-digital world this transformation has effected them and their industry possibly more than any other. The very fact that I'm writing this review on this blog with an embedabble album stream was not possible 10+ years ago when Metric got their start. Paradoxically of all the modern rock bands to face that challenge Metric may have dealt with the seismic shift better than anyone. They were one of the first indie acts to embrace the internet to spread their music -- Most critically when they decided to forego label help and promote Fantasies on their own. In spite of this or perhaps because of it Synthetica delves deeply into the crushing weight of that digital influence. The album seems to start where their 2008 track "Help I'm Alive" left off. The single from fantasies was a rebellious affirmation of the electricity of being alive and adventuring in the world. On Synthetica its been transformed into a more desperate meditative cry: "Synthetica is about staying home and wanting to crawl out of your skin from the lack of external stimulation."
My three favourite tracks are the amazing Nocturne which I'm considering doing a bootleg remix of. It just perfectly embodies Emily when she's at her most ambiguous and fragile. Dreams so Real is also an poignant anthem that rails against the pain of feeling inconsequential: "Thought I made a stand only made a scene". Emily's voice is ethereal and yet somehow so intense and I love the deep tropical percussion on this.
On "Breathing Underwater," Emily Haines deals most obviously with the themes she spelled out in that letter to fans begging us to answer her desperate question: "Is this my life? Am I breathing underwater?
Like so many artists before her Metric tackle the ever-present anxiety of the creative... is their art authentic does it mean anything? And by extension of this does their life have real meaning? Metric for the most part resist making simplified declarations about how technology is sapping us of authenticity and life, and instead fully admit that they are wrapped up in this strange modern world and have no easy answers only questions. I think though with the success of this album they should feel confident that it can't be all that bleak and bad!
Check out the full album stream below (Little known fact the cover image here that I've embedded isby Adolfo Natalini & Cristiano Toraldo Di Francia, founders of Superstudio in Italy and pioneers of the 1960's Radical architecture movement. Their visual ideas about the future inspired the sound of SYNTHETICA.