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CD of The Week

Week of 10/16/23

    Metric - Formentera II (Thirty Tigers / MMI)

    Just over a year ago, Metric released their epic eighth album Formentera, a treatise on pandemic-era anxieties and the urge to move beyond them to a better state of mind. Surprise! The veteran Canadian indie rockers weren’t done with their trip to Formentera (named after a Spanish island) as they had a whole second set of tunes from the recording sessions waiting for us. These songs were mostly written and recorded before the ones that ended up on last year’s record, then finished off in Paris early this year. Formentera II returns to the hazy, spacey vibes of the first record, with singer Emily Haines still focused on similar themes.

    Lead single “Just The Once” is a pulsing disco dance-pop banger pondering the difference and the danger between trying something just once and turning it into a habit. The swaying, strumming “Nothing is Perfect’ plays with the title phrase, as in, the absence of anything can be perfection. The same strum-along vibe is found on the nostalgic “Who Would You Be For Me,” with Emily looking back at her life in the earliest days of the band in 2002 NYC. Album opener “Detour Up” is also a bit of a retrospective on their career, especially in the wake of their debut album recently turning 20 years old. It’s a minimalist groove about the winding and wild road the band has gone down. Haines sings that “I took a detour up, a detour up/The map was in the hands of none of us” and that Metric were “dropped to the deepest strange unfamiliar place/But I can't imagine going any other way.”

    The strutting “Stone Window” was written about the worst of the pandemic era and the loss of time and place. When Formentera was released, Haines talked about it hopefully soundtracking a dance party on the other side of the darkness… she returns to those thoughts here, “Now I fix my gaze/On a golden age/That I know will come” – but will it ever?

    Some of the themes of the epic Formentera opener “Doomscroller” are revisited in the eerie “Suckers,” with Haines musing on Internet-addicted anger and suggesting “If you feel so bad, take a look from the outside/You've been staring at the wall, never watching the world.” The cinematic trip “Descendants” is also a multi-part suite a la “Doomscroller,” with dark techno beats and Haines repeating the mantra “Stuck in my ways and afraid of conforming.”

    Our second trip to Formentera wraps with the haunted “Go Ahead and Cry,” about trying and failing to live blissfully through the end times. Haines ends the record intoning, “For everything we did/As we stalled and rushed/Mother nature is laughing at us/So go ahead and cry, cry.”

    As always, Jimmy Shaw’s guitar tones and wall of twinkling production make it clear this is a Metric record, with Joshua Windsted and Joules Scott-Key as their always-reliable rhythm section, holding everything down. Formentera II is a slightly more restrained record with fewer big pop hooks and more experiments with song structure and length. Emily’s lyrics sometimes get lost in the ether of the production and synths. However, it’s far from lesser leftovers – luxuriate on one more trip to their ideal island, but go ahead and cry while you’re there.
    Review by Joey O.

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