Pagans in Vegas
(Metric Music International/Universal Music Group)
Seamus Hamilton-Pattison January 11, 2016
Since the commercial and critical breakthrough of Fantasies (the record that spawned the un-goddamn-believable “Gimme Sympathy” and “Help I’m Alive”), Toronto-based indie rock quartet Metric has embraced an increasingly synthy sound more akin to contemporary pop music with each album.
Pagans in Vegas is to date, the epitome of this sound. Gone are guitarist James Shaw’s tight, driving, distorted guitar riffs. Gone too, is the endearing and sneering spoken-word delivery frontwoman Emily Haines frequently employed. These aspects of Metric have been effectively replaced by clean, reverb-drenched guitars over synthesizer-centric backing tracks to Haines’ now-pitch perfect, sickly sweet vocal stylings.
If that latter sound’s description is familiar to you, that’s because it’s extremely pervasive through mainstream indie/pop music these days. That’s the thing about Metric: even if they’re far from the forefront of popular music, the band’s new album still sounds trendy and relevant, without sacrificing authenticity.
With its 8-bit blips and definitively ’80s synth sound, “The Shade” could easily soundtrack your next stylish, pseudo-nerdy loft party.
“Too Bad, So Sad” is a club banger at-the-ready, sounding for all the world like Tiësto had a writing credit. Haines even resurrects her signature vocal inflection for this track’s chorus, bringing us the earworm line “Oh yeah, woo-hoo! Too bad, woo-hoo! So sad, woo-hoo!”
Like me, you might be initially put off by this album’s flaunting of the most electronic, pop-oriented sounds the band has produced to date. Stick it out though, because everything you like about Metric is still in place. Shaw’s a subtle guitarist, and still weaves his simple, melodic leads into almost every song. Emily Haines sings a little lower and softer, but still brings plenty of sass and pomp to her unique, powerful vocals.
Pagans in Vegas is Metric’s blatant, but well-executed attempt to stay on the cutting edge of pop and captivate new audiences. If they succeed, it’s well-deserved.