Metric and South

As almost every one-hit wonder or label-jilted band can tell you, the vicissitudes of the music industry work in mysterious ways. Just ask the Los Angeles quartet Metric, who found their space-age synthpop tune "Grow Up and Blow Away" featured prominently in a Polaroid commercial even as their Stephen Hague-produced debut of the same name suffered release-schedule limbo. The nomadic band--who has also spent time in Brooklyn, London and Toronto and boasts two members with ties to Canadian art-school commune Broken Social Scene--eventually ditched the anemic yuppie-bar frostiness of those early sessions for guitar-buzzed electropop when recording their sophomore disc, Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? Bursting with taut indie-rock perfection, Old World shines thanks to vocalist Emily Haines' coy disaffection and self-assured sauciness--especially on its roughed-up New Romantic splattering ("Dead Disco"), calculator-chilled anti-war seduction ("Succexy") or spiky-riffed keyboard chic ("IOU").

The recent fortunes of the British trio South have not been as sparkling. Their excellent 2003 release With the Tides rode those titular waves all the way to a desert island of obscurity after lead guitarist Jamie McDonald broke his wrist, forcing the cancellation of a tour. Nevertheless, Tides deserves kudos for its richly cohesive textures and ditching the electro-spangled instrumental interludes that marred From Here On In, their debut co-produced by James Lavelle (UNKLE). Almost every song conjures a furious climax in an epic movie: Cinematic strings sweep through "Loosen Your Hold"; crisp beats and a maelstrom of strumming drive "Colours in Waves"; a crystalline psychedelic hush hovers over "Natural Disasters." With such dramatic pizzazz and McDonald fit and working again, South may ride Metric's buzz-streaked coattails to some overdue success of its own.

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