Metric — made up of Emily Haines (vocals, keyboard), James Shaw (guitar), Josh Winstead (bass), and Joules Scott-Key (drums) — is a Canadian-based band hailing from Toronto, Ontario. I only mention this because Canada doesn’t get much respect in the United States, but the music world must recognize the U.S.’s northern neighbor for exporting some really good indie bands like Metric, in addition to Broken Social Scene — toward which Haines and Shaw also contribute — and The New Pornographers.
Lumping Metric in the indie rock category doesn’t do the band justice. There is so much variety in Metric’s sound that one genre couldn’t possibly describe the album, let alone just one song. The opening track “Empty” starts as a slow ballad, but suddenly flips into a fast second act with plenty of drums and plenty of repetitions of “Shake your head, it’s empty,” but straightens back to the ballad tempo near the end.
The band’s strength is its confidence. Lots of bands become showy in their music, but Metric embraces simplicity. With the slight electronica “Too Little Too Late” the band keeps the song flowing with mainly vocals and a plain guitar melody. The melody in “Poster Of A Girl” is simple too, again relying on Haines’ voice and Shaw’s guitar. Another example of the band’s confidence is the song’s switch past the halfway mark to French lyrics. I doubt many people understand the words, but the melody remains consistent.
There are some noticeable influences on the band’s sound. “Handshakes” screams (in more ways than one) The White Stripes while the punkish “Monster Hospital” could be mistaken for The Clash’s “I Fought The Law.” Metric manages to blend so many genres very well that a party dance song like “Police And The Private” or a retro ballad like “Ending Start” doesn’t seem so out of place.
Haines has a wonderful voice and she is a big reason why the album is so successful at creating a sound so recognizable, yet not recognizable at the same time. There’s a feeling that each song wanders around town lost, pretending to not know what building to walk into. Could it be that Metric has no idea what direction it wishes to take and just rides a wave until it dies? No. I think it’s more like Metric intentionally stranded themselves in a jungle knowing that they would find their way home.