I’ve written on this blog before about the way I often favor a heavily curated over listening to individual albums after one listen. This is because in judging a body of music one of the biggest factors I weigh is consistency. A playlist full of songs I know will hit beats an album with a minute and a half interlude which brings everything to a screeching halt. There are exceptions to this rule, though, with perhaps the album I listen to the most on its own being Metric’s 2009 album “Fantasies”. And in honor of Metric featuring on the upcoming Rezz album, I want to talk about what just might be the most consistent LP I’ve ever heard.
Consistently good, that is. There are a lot of rough albums where one track was no less awful than the last, but beyond just having an unvarying quality, the quality on “Fantasies” is also really high. Vocalist Emily Haines is the gateway into Metric’s universe, able to go from slow and sensual to opening up the floodgates and surfing on a guitar line to hurtle the listener forward like the first plunge of a roller coaster. And this is all just on “Gold Guns Girls”, she’s able to bring this versatility and creativity to all ten tracks on here.
The name Metric is a really appropriate one for this band, because their instrumentals feel perfectly measured and precise, almost machinelike. Riffs methodically drive the song forward over a drumbeat that can go from a whisper in the background on “Collect Call” to pounding and abrasive, setting the tone early on “Stadium Love”, a very memorable song about the animal kingdom engaging in an armageddon-like fight, “angel vs eel, owl vs dove”. But there’s a ghost in that machine, every note adds to the often tense and desperate feelings of the songs. The world of “Fantasies” has danger lurking around every corner. Iconic opening track “Help I’m Alive” comes to terms with the crushing weight of expectations and how they threaten to devour the song’s narrator. “I tremble, they’re gonna eat me alive” are the first lines Emily Haines sings on the album, ironically delivered to the very crowd causing her heart to beat “like a hammer”.
Earlier I made the claim that this was the most consistent album I’ve ever heard, and that’s a claim I stand by. It’s not just that every track on the album has found its way onto a playlist, and I can count on one hand the number of albums that have done that. It’s that from beginning to end this album fills a very particular niche, walking a very thin line between overblown arena rock (though they would tour with Imagine Dragons six years later) and thoughtful indie to create an album that is both punchy and forlorn, while never wavering from the same tone from the declarative swells of “Sick Muse” to the drawn out sighs of “Collect Call”. The characters that inhabit songs on “Fantasies” are all flawed but hopeful, ready to get out into the world yet already jaded.
“You’re gonna make mistakes, you know” sends off the subject of Gimme Sympathy, whose chorus evokes two of the most iconic bands of all time with “who’d you rather be, The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?” Ordinarily this would sound like a lazy name drop, but when the material is this good, the album as strong in it’s closing line as its first few drumbeats, the comparison really does feel earned.