Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton - Knives Don't Have Your Back
Label: Last Gang
Release Date: September 26th, 2006
Emily Haines is best known for being the front woman for Metric. Metric is one of those dancy indie rock bands that are constantly springing up everywhere. The key word there is “dancy”. Even if you’ve never heard Metric before, that word alone is more than enough information to give you a premature idea of what they’re going to sound like. Emily Haines’ solo work, as a result, could be expected to lean in the direction of Frou Frou, maybe a little bit of Portishead. In all reality, it sounds nothing like that. Knives Don’t Have Your Back is more along the lines of Feist and Amy Millan, which can only mean one thing. Pull out the Kleenex now, because there’s a chance you’re going to need it. Seriously.
An example of just how poignant Haines gets on Knives Don’t Have Your Back can be found in “Crowd Surf Off A Cliff”, where echoed vocals and a lone piano make the song sound increasingly haunting and gloomy. But somehow, consistently on the album, for as sad as most of the songs are, Haines still sounds…cute. I mean really, really cute. We’re talking puppies-and-babies-cute here. Because of that quality, no matter how dark the album can get, it’s still absolutely beautiful. This can be seen in both “Our Hell” and “Winning”. “Our Hell” is hushed and bare, with a somewhat pulsing chorus and sporadically gasping vocals. “Winning” is a complete contradiction to itself. It starts off sounding completely defeated and crestfallen, but at certain points there’s a glimmer of hope in Haines’ voice that lends warmth to the song and makes it ultimately comforting.
“Doctor Blind” is polar opposite to “Winning”, with Haines’ vocals sounding detached and hollow, offset by somewhat bluesy music. This distant approach is continued later on with “Nothing & Nowhere”, which incorporates muffled vocals and a bare piano and an overall hopeless and nostalgic feeling.
With Knives Don’t Have Your Back, Emily Haines gives us an album full of heartbreaking and introspective piano ballads. Is it completely dismal at times? Oh, definitely. But that’s no reason to set this album aside exclusively for breakups and rainy days. For as depressing as these songs can be, they also display some beautiful vocals and a simple but intelligent approach to songwriting. Whether or not the Kleenex is really necessary is completely up to you.
"Metric is one of those dancy indie rock bands that are constantly springing up everywhere."
Yeah, so....no. Granted, they do have a "dancy" element to certain songs, specifically a few from Old World Underground, but if you have given the most recent album, Live It Out, a listen, you will find a far less "danceable" album. Regardless of how "dancy" you find Metric to be, if listened to properly (ie, not just the singles), you may find them to actually stand out and not simply mirror the other "dancy" bands that are supposedly "springing up everywhere."
Whew, let me catch my breath now...okay, there. As for Haines' solo work, I do agree that she sounds downright adorable. I find the simplicity of the songs (most tracks have piano accompanied by a simple drumbeat or some subtle strings) to be refreshing. The fact that the album does not incorporate a million production elements or harmonies allows you to simply focus on the "cuteness" of Haines' voice and the complexity of her lyrical phrasing.