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Metric: Fantasies (Self-released) 

The cover image of a single light bulb is stark and effective, a wordless introduction to the electrifying dance music on Fantasies, the fourth album from Canada's Metric.

Amid the surging guitars, keyboards, heavy bass and relentless dance beats is frontwoman Emily Haines, whose vocals rise clean and clear above the mix, stamping the record with vitality and an irresistible charm.

Built around guitar and keyboard riffs, Fantasies is densely layered, at times frantic and moody, but always with a bright, new-wave sheen. Released four years after Metric's last record, Fantasies grew out of a songwriting retreat Haines took in Buenos Aires.

The band—Haines on guitar and synthesizer, guitarist James Shaw, bassist Josh Winstead and drummer Joules Scott-Key—is skillful at cranking up each song, holding back and then cutting loose as they unleash the chorus.

Album opener "Help I'm Alive"—also the first single—is a thumping, urgent song, with Haines' vocals drifting from soft and seductive to the sing-along chorus.

With a high-wire guitar riff that's destined to get stuck in the listener's head, "Gold Guns Girls" takes aim at excesses, desire and greed. "More and more, more and more. ... Is it ever gonna be enough?" Haines sings over and over.

The album's centerpiece is "Gimme Sympathy," which takes its title from two Rolling Stones songs and asks one of life's most fundamental questions: "Who would you rather be—the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?" Without putting forth an answer, Fantasies seems to revel in the question.

More by Eric Swedlund

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