On September 18th, Metric dropped an intriguing blend of haunting vocals and upbeat synth pop in Pagans in Vegas.
The album starts off particularly strong with “Lie Lie Lie,” an ominous opener filled with gentle guitar that coaxes the listener into the general mood of the album. The song skillfully spotlights Emily Haines’ illustrious, low voice. Alongside their catchy intro, Metric succeeds in producing a few songs one can slightly jam out to…certainly not party-bangers, but the type of music you can weave into your studying to loosen up a little bit. “Too Bad, So Sad” rolls along very smoothly, with vaguely intense build ups to Haines belting “Woohoo.” A real gem in the album, “Other Side,” offers a unique, enjoyable view into the singing ability of guitarist James Shaw.
I am particular about how far I venture into synth-pop, and Metric typically stays right on my personal line between just right and too much, alongside bands like CHVRCHES and M83. However, some of the songs off of Pagans in Vegas are just too electronically infused. Notably, the high pitch add-ons to open and close “Fortunes” are a bit much, the videogame-like embellishments in “Celebrate” are incongruous, and “The Face Part 1” is much too abstract. While “The Face Part 2” is calming, and exploratory—much like the main body of M83’s work, Part 1 just fails to satisfy on an auditory level. Absent Haines’ vocals, the focus on instrumentals truly exposes this song as a weakness on the album.
Negatives aside, the album thankfully focuses in on Metric’s exceptional single “The Shade,” providing both the original, head-bobbing version as well as a specialty acoustic version. Metric’s sparse acoustic samplings often succeed, which raises the question of why the band does not focus in on the core vocals of their sound. If they truly do “want it all,” as the band indicates in the chorus of “The Shade,” they might want to consider diving heavily into acoustic accouterments and more fully exploring the extensive range of the talented Haines. To this day, I still name Metric’s 2012 Synthetica tour as my all-time favorite concert experience. Haines’ vocals on “Breathing Underwater” were beyond description, and I am saddened that no song on the new record matches the intensity of that stellar single.