Pagans in Vegas
Metric Music International
Released September 18, 2015
I jump late onto most bandwagons — many of my favorite artists are inactive, and for a year or two, Metric belonged to that unfortunate club. Their unique blend of electronic and traditional rock instruments, as well as their profound and relatable lyrics, captivated me. Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? (2003) was one of the first albums I listened to in its entirety, and I was surprised to find that I loved every single track. Since the group seemed to have disappeared, I was stuck cycling between the same few albums. My musical limbo ended Sept. 18, 2015, with the release of Pagans in Vegas.
Metric’s first studio album in three years, Pagans in Vegas largely preserves their tendency toward complex lyrics and varied musical moods. Several tracks merit multiple listens to appreciate the effect created by the music and words. Even the simple assertion “It’s all what it ain’t” in the breezy “For Kicks” requires a second thought, especially since the track’s serene movement seems to clash with the regretful lyrics. The air of mystery surrounding “Fortunes” is palpable — phrases like “She cracked, but I won’t,” and “It’s too late to leave” — coupled with the inquisitive pulse of the intro, piques the listener’s curiosity. One of the most intriguing and thought-provoking tracks was “The Governess,” whose acoustic mood and strangely dystopian lyrics make for an engaging listening experience.
To make lyrical matters more interesting, lead singer Emily Haines has written a letter to listeners on the Metric website discussing the songs. Although reading her thoughts did add nuance to some songs, it did not drastically shift my own interpretation. Nonetheless, I would recommend exploring the album without Haines’ insights first — floating freely within the synths and twangs is part of the fun.
Metric’s open-ended lyrics encapsulate much of their charm, but I was initially drawn to Metric’s music because of the tenuous balance between Emily Haines’ raw voice and the subtle electronic beats surrounding it. On Pagans in Vegas, the group added more electronica than ever before, drowning out Haines’ voice slightly and creating a video game music effect. Metric’s earlier music definitely embraced the video game sound, but the increased use of synthesizers and theremins in this album shifts the blend of traditional and electronic slightly. This addition is successful in some tracks, such as “Cascades.” Here, sleek vocals melt seamlessly into glimmers of robotic tone. For the most part, however, the incorporation of extra computerized sound creates a jarring and dissonant effect. Relatively free of excess beeps, “The Other Side” contains a pleasant surprise — the guitarist and backing vocalist, James Shaw, opens the track in a front and center role.
Despite the many successes of Pagans in Vegas, Metric has yet to create a track that fully captures the beautifully curated vocal, electronic, and traditional rock elements in their earlier work, although many songs come awfully close. This album is still worth a listen: Pagans in Vegas is up to par lyrically and musically, and likely has a song that will resonate with you.