Metric’s new sonic assault sure to measure up

Plus Bruce Cockburn’s first live solo album in 35 years

“HELP, I’M ALIVE,” the opening track of Metric’s new album, Fantasies, reveals much: at once a killer track, an offbeat first single and perhaps a peek at the fragile makeup of the band that teetered on the brink of burnout a few short years ago. No surprise, it is also a huge hit with more to follow as the band gets reacquainted with its worldwide fan base after the album is released April 15.

In 2005, Metric was still being flown around the world to headline music festivals and attend awards shows. The Toronto-based band was four years into a relentless torrent of touring and promoting their breakthrough record, Old World Underground, Where Are You Now and the follow-up Live It Out, to the tune of 300 days a year.

“The pace at that point was just impossible to keep up. The touring just never stopped,” says Emily Haines, the band’s singer, keyboard player and chief lyricist. “On the one hand there was this amazing momentum. It was just incredible, three years after Live It Out was released, we were still being asked to headline festivals in places like San Paulo, Brazil. But we needed some time for other things in our lives.

“We didn’t want to have a life where we never see family, never hang out with friends, have love in your life,” Haines continues. “It just isn’t worth it.”

Enter the much-documented hiatus for the band: Haines would produce two solo efforts, under the moniker Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton, and travel to Argentina to write and relax. Jimmy Shaw established a neighbourhood recording studio for the band on Ossington Avenue in Toronto. The stellar rhythm section of bassist Joshua Winstead and drummer Joules Scott-Key worked the garagerock scene with their own band, Bang Lime.

“We took some time before making this record to reconnect with being human beings and give us something to write about,” says Haines. “That process, although there were times when it was unclear what the path was, we always felt like we were on the right track.”

That track led to the band’s reunion and a recording process that took a year and a half. In comparison, Live It Out took about 10 weeks.

“I did a lot of writing in Argentina. We also worked out of a farmhouse north of Seattle as well as our own studio in Toronto in the west end,” says Haines. “We did it at our own pace and took the time to develop the sound. It was a really cool process.”

The resulting effort is an atmospheric and lush recording, with more layers of sound, more synth and more production with less raw guitar edge than Live It Out. What remains: a band intent on taking their musicianship to greater heights as well as Haines’s honest, poetic songwriting.

In addition, after being courted by labels of every magnitude, Metric made the decision to go it alone on this recording with help from their friends at Last Gang Records distributing the disc in Canada, and Arts & Crafts handling the release in Mexico. “We decided that instead of getting tangled up in another company — their debts, goals, brand — we decided to just create our own team of people all over the world to release the album,” Haines explains.

For a full rundown of options, including limited edition vinyl, go to the band’s website at www.ilovemetric.com.

Great Canadian troubadour returns with another gem

Bruce Cockburn fans around the world rejoice for Bruce has come down from the mountain to offer up the first live solo album of his decades-long career. It will leave you reeling with delight.

Ten concerts were recorded for the album in May 2008. Slice O Life (True North Records) includes a few new tunes, as well as a number of Cockburn classics and some cool covers, including “Soul of a Man,” by Blind Willie Johnson. This is a must-have for any fan of Canadian music.

Article exclusive to TRNTO