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Metric: Sweet Pop With A Bitter Center

Emily Haines' songs are like candy-coated insects: Once you crack their sugary shells, they're not as sweetly inviting as they appear on the surface. As a solo artist, Haines makes music that's gracefully infectious, elegantly beautiful and shot through with doomstruck disappointment that can be felt in the bones. As the leader of Metric, her songs emit showers of sparks, buzzing along bouncily as she sings of political strife and humanity's innate cravenness. It's feel-good music for people who don't dwell on trifling details like words.

"Watch out, Cupid stuck me with a sickness," Haines seethes at the top of "Sick Muse," making it clear from the opening seconds that acerbity will reign amid all the cheerfully buzzing guitars and "aaaaah"-ing backup vocals. And reign it does. In the song's chorus, Haines hits on a central point about our need for control: "Everybody just wanna fall in love / Everybody, everybody just wanna play the lead." But for all the illusions shattered in "Sick Muse" (and the rest of Metric's fine new album, Fantasies), it's easy to get swept up in the song's propulsive poppiness. Still, if you want to dance along, it's best not to listen too closely.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)