Formentera II isn’t quite as good as the original, but Metric’s consistency shines on their ninth album and is both one of the better rock albums of the year and one of the better albums in the band’s history.
Last year’s Formentera was one of the better albums of the year and was the best project the band had put out since 2009. It re-established Metric as one of the best synth-rock acts in the world, but when Formentera II’s first single rolled out a mere twelve months after last year’s album, I honestly expected what generally happens with that quick of a turnaround following a stellar project… wait a second I just wrote this.
Metric and yeule dropped two of my favorite albums of last year, are two of my favorites in general, and both returned this fall after an extremely short turnaround. yeule’s softscars is one of my favorite albums of the decade and is a complete remake of their sound – that is completely abnormal for an artist and should not be considered the norm. I verbatim said in my yeule review I would have loved to get Glitch Princess 2, I would have greatly enjoyed it, and it would have been among my favorite of the year. yeule elected not to do that. Metric’s return is… Formentera II And I love that Metric dropped it, I greatly enjoyed it, and it’s one of my favorite albums of the year.
This has been the best album cycle Metric has had since Fantasies (their best album in my opinion), and both Formenteras are two of their better albums. Metric’s wonderful blend of Canadian synth-rock with some various other indie rock elements worked in here and there are still growing and improving some 20 years later. Formentera II is very much a sequel to Formentera. It’s a wonderful back-and-forth of gloominess and then breakthrough moments of sunshine.
Lyrically, all the incredibly unique and well done concepts pulled off initially are back. Lead singer Emily Haines is phenomenal in writing about the bleakness of living in the information overload of the internet age and the importance of trying to stay positive – both for yourself and for the people who get lost along the way. “Days of Oblivion” is one of the best lyrical moments about being trapped by your memories and causing yourself to implode. Formentera and Formentera II have arguably been two of Emily’s best albums as a songwriter: she’s fantastic at painting an incredibly realistic and bleak image and then extracting every ounce of positivity possible.
‘All the times that now and then appear as only dreams
All the stuff from way back when that’s coming up don’t self destruct
You don’t have to call for the wrecking ball
Or burn the world to ashes
All you have to do is ask me to
I’ll stop you where the descending stairs drop’
Normally when bands try to imitate even small parts of Radiohead they immediately go for shit with the highest degree of difficulty to imitate. Almost every attempt to borrow from Thom Yorke and co. has failed horribly by trying to pull off OK Computer, In Rainbows, or The Bends, but Metric has played it smart betting they can make their own version of Hail to the Thief with the Formentera era. Metric is more creative than most modern rock acts of their stature and their unique sound is kept throughout, plus Emily trades Thom’s ‘war on terror’ political messaging for a more focused social approach to her topic, but sonically and conceptually there are some very similar moments.
The bass playing on “Suckers”, and especially the guitar break between verses, are very similar to some mid-2000s Radiohead work, but Emily completely flips the song on the bridge for one of the best moments on the album. Initially “Stone Window” is clearly influenced by Jonny Greenwood’s more recent, darker, moodier work, but Metric flips the track again and turns it into their special blend of Canadian synth-rock. There are some moments here and there like the guitar playing in the verses on “Descendents”, but nothing ever so over-the-top it takes away from Metric’s sound.
There isn’t a bad track that has come out of the Formentera two-piece. “Go Ahead And Cry” is bouncy as hell and one of the more upbeat songs from this run and especially on Formentera II. My favorite single leading into the album, “Who Would You Be For Me”, is incredibly smooth and I love Emily’s vocals on here. They’re so enveloping and fit perfectly on the dreamy beat. “Detour Up” is close to some of Metric’s older sound than the gloomy moments from Formentera but still works incredibly well as the band hasn’t lost their touch at all.
Formentera II is missing some of the highs of the original, but that can be expected when you picked the right songs the first time. There’s no “Doomscroller”, but the odds they had a second ten-minute-long masterpiece where every second is purposeful, completely explains the whole concept of this era of their music, and zooms through its runtime is almost zero. Gotta land that one the first time, not gonna get a second chance to deliver your mission statement like that. Metric is and has always been an incredibly dependable band, and the Canadians still have plenty of good material to justify this.
The selling point here is real simple. If you liked Formentera the first time around, you’ll enjoy the sequel. Formentera II is a great project and plays to the strengths Metric has built up in recent years as both social commentators and musicians. Some of the highs might not be on the level of the original, but Metric is still an incredibly consistent band and there isn’t a low moment on the album.