Metric: Art of Doubt
Consider me an evangelist for Metric: I moved to Toronto around when they started making radio waves, and they were the first Canadian band that grabbed my heart. When I meet a fellow Metric fan, I want to delve into conversation about what our favorite songs are, whether Pagans in Vegas is a great album (spoiler: it fuckin’ is), if they’ve listened to any of Emily Haines’ other projects, and on and on. I love, love, love this band.
So when Metric released Art of Doubt, of course I was inclined to adore it. Lucky for me, I don’t continue to admire it out of faithfulness: Art of Doubt is a banger of a rock album, getting back to the hungry guitar riffs, slapping bass lines, and driving drum beats of their earliest work, but with all the refinement and evolution of a seventh album. Since September, these tracks have been stuck in my head: it’s the music I revert to when nothing else sounds appealing, easily the most played album in the car.
The title track, “Art of Doubt”, begs us to recognize that the world is harsh enough that we must treat ourselves gently — of course, the song itself is some of the most frantic and pure rock & roll on the album, with vocals that veer into pure frustrated screaming. That theme runs throughout the album in its entirety, with buzzy, distorted melodies mirroring the mental dissonance of trying to exist as a person who is true to themselves when we’re constantly at war with falsehoods.
This album taps into the of-the-moment ubiquity of pop astrology, and makes it as palatable as possible. Nao takes the theme of Saturn returning — that is, the planet re-aligning with the place in the cosmos it occupied when you were born — for all it’s worth, exploring cosmic misunderstandings and opportunities that sweep through your world once in a lifetime. Songs about change and transformation suit Nao’s voice, which is itself heavenly, dipping deep and husky or sweeping up into a wavery, brilliant falsetto. The title track is a groovy duet full of longing and soul. Some lyrics are weak or feel forced (as if the imagery is just so brilliant it must be squeezed into those bars), but they’re massively outnumbered by the poeticism of the entire album.
Lykke Li: so sad so sexy
Lykke Li is back and iridescently tragic on this album, full of dreamy synth-pop that sounds like the most romanticised and idealised version of heartbreak. From the first song of the album to the last, so sad so sexy embodies the way we want to be seen by the person whose heart we broke, or who broke ours: this is Hollywood glitz love and London fogbank love, poetic and cinematic. Li’s voice, warm and bright over bouncy synths and crunchy bass, swoops and beckons lovers like a will-o’-the-wisp, intimating “you want to follow me, but you’ll never touch me again, and isn’t that the saddest thing you’ve ever heard?” If an Instagram #influencer could be an album, they’d be so sad so sexy. I fucking love it. This album dropped while my boyfriend was out of town, and I spent the whole weekend listening to it, convinced that if we were apart because we’d broken up, this is exactly how melodramatic and beautifully miserable I would feel.
Man, do I ever have mixed feelings about this one. Chime has one of my favorite opening tracks of the year, the gently menacing “Ride”, with its echoing hook and deceptively slow build. Some of Dessa’s most searing, empowering raps are right here, particularly the indicting “Fire Drills” — and yet it comes right alongside the most milksop soft pop of 2018. This album came in the wake of a rough breakup, after Dessa literally had her brain imaged to explore the physiological and scientific impact of being in love and the possibilities of, perhaps, curing lovesickness like some other common woe. I think that’s fascinating, and I think she’s made something brilliant of her heartache, but I just don’t really dig Dessa’s singing voice as an instrument for pop music, and Chime is unfortunately peppered with pop tunes. Chime is an important piece of her discography and perhaps the most accessible of her albums, though, and I love me a woman rapping philosophically about the state of the world.
Neko Case: Hell-On
Hell-On was my first full-length introduction to Neko Case. I love this album – it feels vibrant and textured and its storytelling cadence is deceptively inviting to a newbie like me, which is a feat for a seventh album in a folk rock legend’s catalogue. Closer listens reveal some disturbing, violent imagery (there’s a song about someone mutilating animals to scare young girls!). One thing I super dig about Case is how she introduces these weird movements into her songs, changing up the tempo and rhythm until you’re listening to something that feels entirely new on the same track – not just a key change, as something more radio-friendly might do, but a shattering and eventual re-stitching.
Laurel came to my attention last year, with the earthy, rich warmth and utterly sing-along worthy lyricism on “Life Worth Living.” Listening to this album reminds me of that one friend who somehow nails everything at karaoke, even songs that shouldn’t be in her range. Laurel’s voice is the definition of sweet and smoky, and this album feels like a love letter to the idea of falling out of love: these are the kinds of feelings that are beautiful and awful and they make life worth living but also lead to us making the same mistakes. I love the upbeat tracks as much as the melancholy ones, and if you’ve been seeking someone whose vibe channels a modern-day Stevie Nicks, this is an artist you’ll want to keep tuned to.
Emma Ruth Rundle: On Dark Horses
This album is so moody and dire that it sounds like how fighting depression feels. Maybe you’re having some feelings about mortality and the endless fight against yourself, and you need music that guts you but keeps you grimly hopeful, too — that’s On Dark Horses. “It’s the darkhorse you give legs to, no one else can ride,” she croons on one track, and on another, “They say what doesn’t kill you will just keep you alive.” We’ve all had to conquer one darkness of the psyche or another, and whatever battles Rundle has overcome, her dynamic voice carries us through her battle. Scuzzy and reverberant, On Dark Horses is an exhausting, and ultimately rewarding, listen.
Give her hip-hop with heart and swagger in spades, and Tatiana will be there to white-lady rap along with it.