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Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton:: Knives Don’t Have Your Back (Album Review)

Emily Haines (of Broken Social Scene and Metric) strikes out on her own with Knives Don’t Have Your Back, a collection of quiet, introspective piano ballads that are every bit as beautiful as the album’s packaging. Haines’s languid, melancholic compositions are reminiscent of Kristen Hersh’s solo material, particularly on “Crowd Surf Off A Cliff,” one of the album’s many wrenching love songs. There’s an inward, domestic tone to Knives—a record that could provide all-too-fitting accompaniment to a reading of The Bell Jar. Haines’s is a distinctly feminine—though not necessarily feminist—point of view, and she delivers bons mots like “Bros before hos is a rule/Read the guidelines” and “Don’t elaborate like that/You’ll frighten off the frat boys” throughout “The Maid Needs A Maid,” a double entendre-filled tune about desperate housewives, and “Mostly Waving,” respectively. The singer-songwriter’s lovely, often unexpected piano melodies are complemented by Hammond organ (courtesy of her band The Soft Skeleton) and opulent strings (by the Tokai String Quartet) on tracks like “Doctor Blind,” a clever condemnation of psychiatry that Tom Cruise would no doubt get behind. Knives Don’t Have Your Back is a striking contrast—and a poignant, subtle companion—to last year’s Live It Out.
(Sal Cinquemani)