A blitz of fantasies

What do Metric and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have in common? Fiery frontwomen, New York City, and leaked new albums.

Despite meeting in Toronto, Emily Haines and the rest of Canadian indie rock band Metric formed officially in New York City, home to Karen O and her Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Both bands unfurled their debut albums in 2003 and have since continued a trend in album releases. Metric have treated us to their musical prowess every two years since Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?, while the YYYs have upped the ante with three year intervals, beginning with their debut album Fever To Tell.

Cage Match: Metrics Fantasies vs. Yeah Yeah Yeahs Its Blitz! Who will prevail?
Cage Match: Metrics Fantasies vs. Yeah Yeah Yeahs Its Blitz! Who will prevail?

Both bands are now due for a 2009 release in rapid succession, with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs It’s Blitz! coming out on April 6 and Metric’s Fantasies the following day. However, both albums were leaked online in late February and early March. Haines, in particular, was dismayed about this. “It’s not like we didn’t expect it to happen, but it’s still a huge bummer when it does.” The Yeah Yeah Yeahs had similar feelings: “[We’ve] been brimming with nervous excitement in anticipation of releasing this record to the world. Leaks are no fun but it’s out of our hands.”

Though the cat’s out of the bag, both albums are nothing short of exciting. Who will come out on top in 2009’s indie rock battle?

Let’s give Metric the home court advantage. Fantasies is by far their most exciting album to date, with a mysterious, charming vibe that leaves you wanting more well after the last track. Current hit single “Help I’m Alive” kicks off the band’s fourth studio album with Joules Scott- Key’s short but sweet percussion solo, then builds momentum as Haines’ synthesizer skills carry the song to its climax.

“Sick Muse” is one of the album’s delightful treats, with its succinct lyrics and James Shaw’s precise guitar riffs, while the next tracks “Satellite Mind” and “Twilight Galaxy” create a very cosmic feel. The fast pace of “Gold Guns Girls” combined with the infectious chorus “is it ever gonna be enough?” repeated throughout the song are enough to make it stand out as one of the best songs on the album.

Slated as the next two album singles, “Gimme Sympathy” showcases Haines’ high range while the darker mood on “Front Row” displays her perfect execution of rapid rhymes that are characteristic of past albums.

Originally entitled “Lazy Dancer,” “Collect Call” is an up-tempo ballad with an airy outro reminiscent of Coldplay’s “Violet Hill,” and is followed by Haines’ lower registers on “Blindness.” Finally, “Stadium Love” is a fitting closing track with lines such as “fight it out to wow the crowd,” making it evident that Metric intends to rev up their game with an arena-packed domination.

You say Karen O and the boys have more funk this time around? Yeah yeah yeah, you better believe it. The long awaited It’s Blitz! is quite a departure from previous YYYs albums, but its unexpected playfulness proves to be even better.

Album opener “Zero” delivers a power punch of fuzzy guitar riffs from Nick Zinner combined with Karen O’s brilliant signature yelping. The energy continues to ooze out in droves with “Heads Will Roll,” an electrifying melange of bombastic instrumental sections and cleverly crafted lyrics where Karen O advocates, “off with your head/dance till you’re dead.”

“Soft Shock” takes a step back from previous tracks, but still makes an impact with its Oriental vibe. “Dull Life” is anything but dull, as Karen O seems to project her lyrics to the listener in a direct and preach-like manner, and then delves back into singing about “the nightmare of the lies that you speak.”

The cleverly titled “Shame and Fortune” has an ominous arrangement of lyrics that playfully seems to chime “na na na boo boo,” and while YYYs try for a powerful stab at rebellion with It’s Blitz!, they still manage to evoke a sense of vulnerability in songs like “Runaway.” “Dragon Queen” is sporadically eccentric and an obvious homage to their New York roots, and if the first few tracks of the album were meant to excite, then the closing tracks “Hysteric” and “Little Shadow” are rock lullabies that leave you in a satisfied reverie. Although Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ latest album contains a much spicier mix of songs than their previous records, there is still quite a bit of diversity that rings true to the group’s many sides.

Both bands pull out the all stops and their hard work most certainly shines through as two of the best albums of 2009. So is it fair to label a winner? You be the judge because I can’t decide.

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