Metric/Last Gang

4 out of 5

Metric’s latest effort, Fantasies, is best summarized with a few lines from its irresistibly hooky opening track, “Help, I’m Alive.” Vocalist Emily Haines sings, “I get wherever I’m going / I get whatever I need / while my blood’s still flowing / and my heart still beats.” The sense of contentment in these lyrics persists throughout the record, promulgating a Zen-like philosophy that advocates living in the moment and not dwelling on life’s troubles.

Still, Fantasies is not naïve, and it doesn’t condone prancing around in childish bliss while simply ignoring everything even remotely bad. Haines and her cohorts take a jab at this insular kind of lifestyle in “Sick Muse.” The lines “Everybody, everybody just wanna fall in love / Everybody, everybody just wanna play the lead” mock those who spend too much time lusting after fame and romance and forget life’s more meaningful aspects.

Continuing this theme is the accusatory anthem “Gold Guns Girls.” On the track, Haines speaks to a person who is too caught up in a materialistic, gangster-rapper, money’n’bitches attitude. The harsh opening lines, “All the gold / and the guns/ and the girls/ couldn’t get you off” make it clear that Haines has no time for people who waste their time running after things that won’t ever make them truly happy. Haines finishes the song with a disapproving repetition of the word “more” before asking the question, “Is it ever going to be enough?” In these final lines, the song seems to shift from criticism of an individual’s behavior to an anti-capitalism retort.

In addition to accomplishing simple, piercingly honest lyrics, Fantasies succeeds on a musical level as well. Indie rock, especially the electronica-tinged kind to which Metric tends to subscribe, can sometimes rely too heavily on easy hooks and slutty synthesizers, creating a sensation that, while aurally pleasing, is dry and formulaic. Metric transcends these genre-imposed bumpers with mature subtlety. While Fantasies has its fair share of hooks and a good deal of synthesizers, its tracks are patient refusing to dive into premature refrains.

“Blindness” is a perfect microcosm of the album’s collected gracefulness. James Shaw plucks a guitar monochromically while Haines drones instead of singing. Halfway through, just as the track is about to breaks monotony, Haines’s voice soars through her register with a single syllable, and the instruments kick up their pace and tone accordingly. The lyrics are some of the album’s best: Haines discusses the injustices of predestination as she sings the lines, “You gave me a life I never chose / I wanna leave but the world won’t let me go.” She then appears to accept her fate, as the track’s final lines hint, “Got us a battle / leave it up to me.” While it’s not crystal-clear if Haines is being sarcastic here, the Zen overtones on the rest of the album and the fact that she repeats “leave it up to me” suggest she is indeed taking her fate into her own hands.

Fantasies’s grounded mix of mockery and revelation achieves just the sort of nirvana that Mahayana practitioners strive for. It’s hooky and hip enough to please casual listeners, and the layered lyrics provide answers to those who wish to give the album a deeper examination.

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