The music video for “Youth Without Youth,” the first single off Synthetica, is three minutes and 49 seconds of Canadian indie rock band Metric acting appropriately aloof. They make a pretty good show of looking badass while doing some innocuous things – building a many-tiered cake, stacking a pile of tires, igniting two lighters right in front of vocalist Emily Haines’ eyes. There are milkmaids holding hand grenades, a granny in anachronistic garb wielding a shotgun, and yeah, football players.
It’s a surreal synthesis of imagery that has you wondering “What the actual fuck?” but not in a bad way. In fact, it’s enjoyable. “Youth Without Youth” is pure narrative, a bleak peek at what Synthetica is all about — the paradox of the coexistence that exists between the real and artificial.
Haines’ honeyed tones play well over the album and it is sometimes difficult to see what’s “real” about her voice — whether or not her voice is enhanced by artificial means or not. The production on Synthetica is superb. Haines sounds like a chorus, as in “Dreams So Real,” a ballad-like track that plays like a requiem. There is only one moment where her voice comes dangerously close to saccharine — “Lost Kitten” features cutesy intonations, but her dulcet tones resurge comfortably.
“The Wanderlust,” featuring Lou Reed, continues Metric’s dreamlike style. Reed murmurs “The wanderlust will carry your song” over a melody that ripples. The exchange between Haines’ voice and Reed’s displays her existential anxiety — “Will there ever be a place for you and me?” — and Reed’s response, a sort of grandfatherly caress of comfort. With track titles like “Clone,” “Speed The Collapse,” and “The Void,” Synthetica is almost a concept album about the peril of fabricated identity, yet a streak of optimism runs through every song. In spite of Metric’s anxiety, there’s real redemption in Synthetica.
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