Toronto resident Feist penned most of the lyrics Metals in the fall of 2010. She then headed to Big Sur, on the Californian coast and set up an ad hoc recording studio to record the album. Feist rented a cottage nearby, and each morning walked along a ridge overlooking the ocean to the studio. "My commute to work was with my backpack filled with my laptop, journals, and whatever books I was reading," she told Spin magazine. "I'd tromp along the cliffs between wild cows as condors circled overhead. Some days were stunning and gorgeous; on others the clouds were so thick you couldn't see 10 feet."
Feist's morning walks inspired one of the verses for this geometric love song: "All I want is a horizon line / Get some clarity, following the signs / Get some clear ocean signs." "It was the only lyric that I wrote there," she explained to Spin magazine. "I added it because I really was getting serious clarity walking across the cliffs every morning."
Feist brought in Beck's keyboardist and musical director, Brian LeBarton to help with the song's arrangement.
"Sloop John B" is a traditional West Indian folk song, and it was a huge hit for The Beach Boys in 1966. They tweaked the lyric, "This is the worst trip since I've been born" to "...I've ever been on" as a wink to acid culture.
"Islands in the Stream" was originally written by The Bee Gees as an R&B song. It was originally written by the brothers for Marvin Gaye, however it was recorded instead as a duet by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton with the Gibb Brothers also contributing vocals.