CD Roundup: “There’s No Leaving Now” by Tallest Man on Earth and “Synthetica” by Metric

Indie darlings Tallest Man on Earth and Metric both deliver some minor efforts.

Raghav Mehta

 

Album: “There’s No Leaving Now”

Artist: Tallest Man on Earth

Label: Dead Oceans

 

There’s nothing particularly controversial about Swedish songwriter Kristian Mattson. Over the course of the last six years, Mattson built a respectable catalog of earnest folk ditties that hearken back to the early traditions of Americana under his moniker The Tallest Man on Earth.

When Mattson succeeds, he’s spellbinding, but when he falters, he’s as instantly forgettable as your dime-a-dozen coffee shop songwriter. While Mattson’s last two albums cemented his status as one of indie’s most deft songwriters in recent memory, his latest effort, “There’s No Leaving Now,” falls into the latter.

From the outset, the listener can sense a drastic shift in Mattson’s creative approach. In the opening track “To Just Grow Away,” Mattson sounds tamer, more cavalier, making it a far cry from lead tracks from his two releases. And that more or less sets the tone for an album that would make for appropriate background music for a Wes Anderson movie. From the breezy sputtering of “Revelation Blues” to the hushed crooning of “Bright Lanterns,” the album underwhelms. There are some distinguished moments like “1904” and the devastating piano-laden title track but certainly not enough to consider it redeemable by any measure.

It’s not that “There’s No Leaving Now” is a bad album. But when you consider Mattson’s potential, it’s horribly minor work from a songwriter who is anything but.

 

2.5 stars out of 5 stars

 

Album: “Synthetica”

Artist: Metric

Label: Mom & Pop Music

 

Since their debut in 2003, indie outfit Metric have endured a bit of a muddled career arc. Fronted by Broken Social Scene cohorts Emily Haines and James Shaw, the band developed a comfortable niche, penning simplistic electro-rock gems with varying results. And with the release of their latest album, the aptly-titled “Synthetica,” the band’s qualitative decline has never sounded more pronounced.

In regard to production quality, “Synthetica” is top-tier. It’s rife with lush, highly compressed textures that nicely compliment the group’s ritzy aesthetic. There are moments where it sounds a bit like Sleigh Bells but devoid of all the obnoxious twee sensibilities. What “Synthetica” lacks is compelling songwriting. It’s so preoccupied with style and texture that the group neglects to actually write any decent hooks. On the title track Haines’ voice soars over a busy soundscape of sputtering synths that just sounds redundant and anticlimactic once it’s over.

Metric boasts a lot of attitude and ambition, but Haines and Shaw have run out of juice in the songwriting department. There are some interesting ideas floating around “Synthetica,” but its utter lack of cohesion and focus is where it suffers the most. Not even Lou Reed, who guests on “The Wanderlust,” could save this slab of glossy dance rock from mediocrity.

 

2 stars out of 5 stars