» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Last Gang

Rating: 8.8/10 ?

May 6, 2009
You'd never know it from their latest album, but months before Metric got together to record Fantasies Emily Haines had a writing crisis: everything sounded like something else, and comparisons of her music to that of other bands seemed to have been eating at her creativity. Like so many of us do from time-to-time, Haines needed a fresh start. To break away she traveled to Buenos Aires, a place where she didn't know a single soul. But, that was the whole point of the trip. There she gained what she needed: the human contacts and experiences to remind us all that we are alive. Something that can get lost in the mundane activity of day-to-day life, our existence, was calling out to Haines in a completely different place, and a completely different existence than the one that she knew. It was in Buenos Aires where she wrote "Help, I'm Alive," the first song and single of Fantasies. Discussing the album, Haines says that she was seeking simplicity and authenticity at the time, and the opening track was the first thing that transpired. Thankfully, what Haines produced in Buenos Aires, and what Metric has produced on Fantasies, is just what fans wanted: authentic Metric.

I tend to consider it a good thing when I can't get past the first four tracks of an album, as that usually means I'm enjoying, indeed getting hooked on, the disc as it comes, rather than just skipping to tracks I find less offensive. Sure, this can backfire at times, as many albums tend to be deceptively frontloaded. With Fantasies, however, the strong early going was a good omen for the rest of the album, Metric's fourth full-length and their first album since Live it Out, released in 2005. The band, consisting of Haines (vocals, synth), James Shaw (guitar), Josh Winstead (bass) and Joules Scott-Key (drums), reassembled after Haines' 2006 solo album, Knives Don't Have Your Back, which showed a more melancholy side of the frontwoman's personality, something which appears to be more suppressed in Metric. Fantasies is far from Knives in scope, sound, and overall accomplishment.

A few short moments after "Help, I'm Alive" commences, it is evident that the band still has their edge, and perhaps a sharpened one at that. A distorted guitar and a simple yet effective drum beat by Scott-Key meshes with Haines' purposeful, ambient voice. Her looped voice cuts deeper with every repetition. Throughout the track Haines proclaims that her heart is "beating like a hammer," a sentiment echoed in the rhythmical drumbeat and pulse-like guitar structure. The song (as well as Haines' voice) abruptly changes from mesmerizingly dark to quite cheerful during the chorus. The unexpected, complex duality of the track certainly works well, and the transition is a theme revisited throughout the album. "Sick Muse," the second track, starts with a catchy guitar riff from Shaw, who deftly delivers the effective simplicity Haines desired for Fantasies; his guitar is dead-on so many times throughout the disc, never over-indulgent but never faltering. Haines, lyrically expressing regret about past relationships, seems to be having an enjoyable time getting it off her chest. Possibly the catchiest song on the album, the chorus of "Sick Muse" should certainly get listeners moving.

The fourth song on Fantasies, "Twilight Galaxy," seems like the album's most explicit expose on Haines' personality. It could have been lifted straight from the singer's diary, as she consistently espouses her feelings of euphoria and shame, highlighting the peaks and troughs of life over the past few years. The subtle nature of the drums and synthesizer are elegant and effective, prominently displayed at opportune moments, yet usually hidden behind Haines' charming voice.

Perhaps the deepest and most complex song on the album is "Blindness," a self-destructive and altogether gut-wrenching narrative about suicidal thoughts, helplessness and opportunity. Shaw's wallowing guitar, combined with Haines' forlorn yet encapsulating lyrics, transfix the listener into a state of melancholy. However, true to form on Fantasies, the song eventually takes a positive turn, with somewhat cheerful drums and lyrics rising in the middle. This ephemeral change in tempo graciously subsides, however, as the song transitions back to a state of encapsulating sadness. Other tracks on the disc, such as "Satellite Mind," "Gimme Sympathy," "Collect Call" and "Stadium Love," resonate well with the structure and tone of the album, complementing the surrounding tracks with persistent elegance and innovation.

It's also possible to digitally grab "Help, I'm Alive" in acoustic form from the band's website. A skeletal outline, the acoustic cut appears to be how Haines originally wrote the song, and it has a much different vibe than the album version. One can hear the unbridled emotion and authenticity in Haines' voice and in the piano keys she strikes. It's more sombre and penetrates much deeper than the final evolution, as Haines' vocals are much more fragile than on Fantasies, hinting at a breakdown just around the corner.

As searching as it is, Fantasies is not just about Haines finding herself; it's about Metric, as a band, completing their most comprehensive, polished and authentic album to date. The complex emotional duality of the disc is nothing less than penetrating. Most of the tracks are danceable as well as lonesome, and can be enjoyed in a variety of settings. All-in-all, it appears quite evident that Metric has found the authenticity that Haines desired when she set out for Argentina.

Reviewed by Brian Christopher Jones
A student living in Scotland and working toward a PhD in law.

See other reviews by Brian Christopher Jones



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