Metric Make Today's Modern Perils Timeless on 'Formentera'

BY Nicholas SokicPublished Jul 5, 2022

Naming your album after the fabled Spanish island Formentera — as Metric have done for their eighth release — carries with it certain expectations. The island, which can only be reached by boat, was known for being a hippie haven in the '60s, where Joni Mitchell wrote part of Blue in 1971 after ending her relationship with Graham Nash. The same year, King Crimson put out Islands, with opening track "Formentera Lady." Meanwhile, Bob Dylan spent some time living in the island's Cap de Barbaria lighthouse. 

For some listeners, that may just be popular music ephemera, but it also suggests a musical lineage for the island that Metric more than live up to, even though they've never been to it themselves.

"We came to this realization that it wasn't even about an actual place anymore," wrote Emily Haines in a press release. "It was about creating an escape for yourself in your mind because you're powerless over so many things."

It's this sentiment that permeates Formentera, most obviously in 10-minute opener "Doomscroller." While not directly focused on the pastime, the song evokes the same cycles of hopelessness turning into hope, if only to spite one's circumstances. Beyond a one-line reference to QAnon, the band doesn't evoke specific realities from our ever-encroaching dystopia. While some could consider that a copout, it gives the album a sense of timelessness. After all, there's a battle in every era. Whether it's a relationship, a life, or our sense of a coherent, cooperative civilization, why give up on it once you've fought this hard?

The song, and most of the album, are carried by the new wave synths we all expect from Metric. But there are a few surprises the stalwart group have for its audiences. Moments of piano accompaniment offer a respite from the end-of-the-world vibes while being more reminiscent of Haines's solo work. There's also the title track, which transitions seamlessly from almost forlorn strings to a mid-tempo club banger. Sometimes there is no justification needed, like in "What Feels Like Eternity," a track with a pulsating rhythm that almost compels you to dance.

In fact, despite the largely ominous portents, Formentera is not a harbinger. Its upbeat synth work and swirling crescendos are not just an illusion, or a cheap trick, like many songs that make up a "Happy Songs That Are Actually Sad" playlist. On "I Will Never Settle," Haines begins by declaring, "This is not the song I wanted to write for you / This is not the way I wanted to make you feel." Yet, both she and her audience know that this is the only song you can sing in a world such as this. We have the cards we've been dealt, and we can either despair or dance.

Tour Dates

Latest Coverage