An Introduction To Metric In 10 Songs

Metric | Courtesy of Alysse Gafkjen
Metric | Courtesy of Alysse Gafkjen
Photo of Culture Trip
12 January 2017

Metric, the popular and eclectic indie band from Toronto, is known for deviating from the norm with their unique blend of synth pop, new-age rock, and punk influences. They have set themselves apart from the average rock band, introducing a new sound to the Canadian music scene that defies traditional labels.

The band started as a duo in the late 1990s when lead vocalist and ‘utility woman’, Emily Haines, started writing music with lead guitarist and back-up vocalist, James (or, ‘Jimmy’) Shaw. After releasing their first (and self-titled) EP under the name Mainstream, Haines and Shaw went on to write and collaborate with producers from New York and London until they signed a record deal with Restless Records in the US in 2000 (they changed the name to Metric one night when they saw the way the word looked on Shaw’s keyboard screen).

Joshua Winstead (bass) and Joules Scott-Key (drums) joined shortly thereafter, helping to produce their first officially released and recorded album, Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?, in 2003 with independent Canadian label, Everloving Records. The record was a success, launching them into stardom; since then, Metric has continued to put out critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums from Live It Out in 2005 to Fantasies in 2009, up to their latest album release, Pagans In Vegas (2015).

Metric has seen their songs featured on US Billboard charts, films, TV shows and video game soundtracks, has been nominated for the Polaris Music Prize and won several Juno Awards. With the versatility of Haines as a vocalist and the band as a whole, there’s no stopping Metric in the kind of success they will have in the future: from punk to rock to dance-pop to electronica, they have mastered it all.

Combat Baby (2003)

This song is the classic representation of Metric’s style: guitar riffs, synth pop sounds, high energy drums and breathy vocals, all eloquently combined to form a sound made to get that foot-tapping and body dancing.

Help I’m Alive (2008)

The lead single from Metric’s fourth album, Fantasies, was released digitally in 2008 before the officially drop of the album in 2009, and is one of their most well-known songs, featured on TV series, movies and a video game soundtrack.

Gold Guns Girls (2009)

‘Gold Guns Girls’ makes a fierce appearance on the otherwise downtempo album, Fantasies, with a fast beat, rapid drums and electric guitar riffs reminiscent of old school punk that set the stage for many years of the 1990s music scene. Inspired by the film Scarface, lead singer Emily Haines wrote lyrics around the idea of greed, repeatedly singing the catchy phrase ‘is it ever gonna be enough’, and coming at you strong.

Gimme Sympathy (2009)

Another hit from Fantasies, ‘Gimme Sympathy’ boasts a synth-pop sound and catchy beat, complimented by Haines’ vocals. This song is high energy, the way Metric usually serves it, making for the perfect alternative dance song.

Sick Muse (2009)

In ‘Sick Muse’, Haines alternates between soft, high-pitched vocals during the chorus and deep, rock-style singing showing off her versatility as a vocalist and captivating the listener, as she usually does.

Artificial Nocturne (2012)

From their fifth studio-recorded album Synthetica, this song maintains that steady but quick drum beat found in a long list of their songs, and Haines’ voice beautifully accompanies the song with lyrics about escaping a broken heart.

Breathing Underwater (2012)

‘Breathing Underwater’, also from Synthetica, which peaked at number 12 on the Billboard 200 for 2012, combines electronic sounds with beautifully breathy vocals making for a more pop-style song than a rock or punk track, although the guitar riffs keep the song within the realm of their usual sound.

Lost Kitten (2012)

This song boats high-pitched, whispery vocals paired with synthesizers and light drums. The video, released almost over a year later, portrays a gay man in Mexico, sending a powerful message through its lyrics, giving a new meaning to the song which had been interpreted in many different ways prior to its release.

Synthetica (2012)

This song, which is the name for the album as well, is an exceptional rock song with fast-paced drums, but goes against the norm by including synthesized pop sounds.

The Shade (2015)

Their most recent album, Pagans In Vegas, tones down the guitar riffs in replace for a more synthesized sound and vocal layering, a new avenue for the band. ‘The Shade’ was the first single from the album released, and while crossing new boundaries for Metric, has kept listeners intrigued by their constant evolution of style.

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