Reviews:: Emily Haines Knives Don't Have Your Back

Today marks the US release of Emily Haines’ solo release – Knives Don’t Have Your Back. Much like the other attractive members of the Broken Social Scene, Emily has her fingers in a lot of different pies. Wait that just sounds crass.

Emily’s other project, Metric, exploded onto the indie scene with their high energy dance floor pop songs. Admittedly, I’m actually not a fan of Metric (or that style of music in general) and tend to shrug off the collaborative efforts of the BSS. I do however think the solo efforts of the group really shine. Jason Collett, Feist, and now Emily Haines escape the structure and expectations of the group to deliver emotional, heartfelt records that make you take notice.

Instead of upbeat rockers with much ado about sweaty f@*king (her quote not mine), Emily slinks behind her piano to create a melancholy collection of her thoughts and fears. The opener is a delicate piano melody with well placed drums about a doomed relationship. As she admits reflectively, “our hell is a good life.”
All we know is how to forget. It’s the type of lyric that is so poignant you just remember it and nod in agreement.

It’s interesting to see her step outside the predictability of Metric (aside from the horrible title of Crowd Surf off a Cliff) and expose herself to listeners. Rather than rely on catchy riffs, Haines seems content to bang away on a piano, and despite the additions of subtle strings and drums, her songs and thoughts almost feel like a work in progress that will continually evolve. That might explain why the songs, despite being written as long as four years ago, don’t seem dated. What draws me in is that these songs all tend to drift into one emotion. Rather than characters approaching situations with optimism or pessimism, the underlying theme of the record is acceptance. Failed relationships, loss; these things are apart of everyone’s life. love is hell, hell is love. She’s successful, but does she want it? Would she have been happier with a normal life? She’s tired of being on the road. She’s upset at the loss of her father. She’s wondering why feminism is dying. She doesn’t want to dwell on the bad, or fake a false sense of uplifting hope. She simply admits life isn’t easy.

Much like Trentalange, Haines avoids the natural tendency to add too much to her songs and let’s her sensual voice dominate the tracks. Her breathy whispers adds more emotion ot the songs than any amount of instrumentation, but the well placed squeaks of the strings and echo of the piano add to the intimacy of this record. It’s easy to get lost in this record, as she meanders over delicate piano riffs and instrumentation, but I don’t think she wants the process to be easy. It’s personal, and took effort for her to write, so why should we get everything effort free. When you take the time to listen to this record, and hear what she is saying, you finally start to understand why it’s so nice.

Here’s my favorite track::
MP3:: Winning
Despite using a complete album admitting acceptance, this track is a simple piano track that portrays a sympathetic lover, trying to reassure her man that everything will be ok. Whatever’s wrong, together they can fix it. It’s a powerful closer, but musically and emotionally. No matter how bad things get, you sometimes just need to hear eventually it will be ok, despite the fact you simply have to accept the outcome regardless.

Check out some other great tracks via the hype machine

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