There's plenty to fear about a things-are-not-as-they-seem future. But there's also, in Metric's fifth album, Synthetica, a guide to stripping away the layers of disorientation and disillusionment to find defiant authenticity at the core of life. Consider it the sort of thrilling dance-rock record for those who can carve out their own resistance and find comfort—or even thrive—in some dystopian near-future.
Thematically, the album extends the ideas of Metric's 2009 Fantasies (and follows closely alongside Radiohead's OK Computer), but here, singer-songwriter Emily Haines is more concerned with the constructs of personal identity—and what remains hidden versus what's presented.
"Artificial Nocturne" functions as the album's introductory prologue. In the opening lines, Haines sings, "I'm just as fucked up as they say / I can't fake the daytime / I found an entrance to escape into the dark." The song lines up the questions that shape the rest of the album: perception versus reality, barriers versus escape, self-reliance versus the lure of an easy solution.
"I can think for myself / I've got something no pill could ever kill," sings Haines on the pulsating title track, a breakneck, punky resistance anthem. "Hey, I'm not synthetica / I'll keep the life that I've got."
Synthetica is such a meticulously well-crafted and vivid album that it's easy to imagine it playing out in cinema, as a sci-fi epic with Haines in the role of assertive, rebellious, adventurous heroine. "The future is mine," she sings on closer "Nothing but Time." Yes, indeed—and the present, too.