Metric is an indie pop band that was founded in Toronto in 1998. The band is fronted by former Broken Social Scene member Emily Haines. The other main member of the foursome is James Shaw. Not the same James Shaw who was a founding member of Cranes, but the same James Shaw who was also in Broken Social Scene with Haines. They’ve moved around a lot, but Toronto will always be their home.
They’ve put out five critically acclaimed records since 2003, including this year’s Synthetica. Their second record —Live It Out (2005)– was shortlisted for the inaugural Polaris Music Prize. Their 2009 record —Fantasies— was shortlisted for the 2009 award. Synthetica will most likely make the shortlist again in 2013.
I’ll be honest. For a long time, I didn’t like Metric. At least I had convinced myself that I didn’t like Metric. It didn’t make sense, because I was a huge fan of Broken Social Scene, and I’m really into the solo Emily Haines stuff. Obviously, I should have also liked Metric. I made up lots of excuses and tried to explain away the oddity, but it didn’t even make sense in my own head. One day about a year ago, I decided to be really fair about it and I sat down to a Metric marathon. When the marathon was over, I came out with a different view. I do like Metric!
Apparently, the theme of the album is knowing the difference between what is real and what is not. Emily Haines said:
FANTASIES was all about pushing ourselves out into the world, going to unknown places and shaking off everything familiar. SYNTHETICA is about staying home and wanting to crawl out of your skin from the lack of external stimulation. 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.
She went on to say a bunch of gobbledygook, but that’s the gist of it.
I don’t have a physical copy of this, but I’m made to understand that the booklet is a manifestation of this “look in the mirror” idiom. The lyrics, I’m told, are printed in mirror image, and there’s a piece of mirrored mylar included with it. The listener is supposed to use the shiny foil to read the correctly aligned lyrics. That’s an interesting trick that I’ve not seen before, and it might be interesting enough to make me get a physical copy.
There are some excellent songs on Synthetica, and I have my reasons for picking this one. Mostly, it’s because this is a very significant nod to Emily’s role in Broken Social Scene. In particular, the cadence of the vocals makes it sounds eerily similar to the BSS song “Anthems For A Seventeen-Year-Old Girl”. from the 2002 album You Forgot it in People.
Here’s tonight’s song:
“Lost Kitten” by Metric
There’s a little bit of tuned percussion on this song, and everybody knows how much I like that.
It’s a song that’s about prostitution. Whether it’s literal or figurative prostitution, that’s what it is.
I was looking for a hooker when I found you
When you lie, I’ll cover it up
When you hide, I’ll cover it up
When you cry, I’ll cover it up
When you come undone, I’ll cover it up
Like I said, this song is reminiscent of Broken Social Scene, and probably an intentional nod. You would probably have to be a moderate-to-serious devotee of BSS to get the reference, but it’s definitely there. There’s another reference to Emily’s past, her Toronto connections, and her web of influence. Cris and Evan from Stars play horns on two songs. Haines also managed to get Lou Reed to contribute guest vocals to one song.
You can buy Synthetica from the amazon store here.