Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton
Knives Don't Have Your Back
Emily Haines is someone indie music fans have probably heard but may not have heard of; the frontwoman for Toronto indie outfit Metric and collaborator with the ubiquitous Broken Social Scene (see “Anthem for a 17-year-old Girl”), she is on par with Neko Case for recent contributions to Canadian alternative music. Venturing out on one’s own may be unfamiliar territory to most but with the success of Case and artists like Leslie Feist, anyone can see why Haines would want to give it a shot which, accompanied by the Soft Skeleton (members of BSS, Stars, Metric, and Sparklehorse), comes in the form of Knives Don’t Have Your Back.
The first thing anyone familiar with Metric would notice with this document is how much of a contrast it is from her time at her day job. Agit-pop and grooves have been stripped down to bare bones, rarely much more than a piano and sparse accompaniment left. The somber elegance of Haines’ voice becomes downright somnolent on Knives, her simple orchestrations muting every last nuance of her poetic reflections, muting the swells and outbursts once amplified by her Canadian cohorts. Approaches like these have promise, but only if varieties of intensity, melody, and emotional amplitude exist within the work. Otherwise, if the listener is not a very active one, the general effect becomes that of a sleeping pill. Songs like “The Lottery” and “Doctor Blind” are scattered amidst the landscape of this album, passing you by with world-weary and breathy stories of ‘sexual suicide,’ drug-addled depression, and general malaise, songs written to disenchant those already disenchanted. The piano lines are pretty in their tumbling and the strings can be elegiac in their utilization, but the end results are often akin to Fiona Apple or Regina Spektor if they were locked in a windowless room with only a piano, some whisky, and a bottle of Vicodin for a weekend, very lax and utterly content at being simply morose and reserved.
The finished product is extremely cohesive and listenable; however, the unifying sound and scope is also its downfall as the sameness throughout makes individual songs virtually indistinguishable from one another. Emily Haines has been part of some wonderful music in her past. By no means should she quit her day job. Knives Don’t Have Your Back is a misstep for Haines, though; not flawed to epic proportions, but certainly not driven or focused enough to garner attention to this solo exploit.
Release date: September 19, 2006
Label: Last Gang
Rating: 4.5 / 10
On the web: http://www.emilyhaines.com/
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