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Knives Don't Have Your Back

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Album Review

Emily Haines is so thoroughly the public face of the dance-happy neo-wavers Metric — quite literally, in that her fetching blonde looks are the basis of both of the band's album covers so far — that the idea of a solo album seems redundant at first. As it turns out, however, Knives Don't Have Your Back is utterly unique, far removed not only from Metric's often-hyper pulse but also from atmospheric post-rock gems like Broken Social Scene's gorgeous "Anthems for a 17-Year-Old Girl," still likely the song Haines is best known for overall. Members of both bands do appear here, but the focus of Knives Don't Have Your Back is strictly on Haines' vocals and piano. Recorded together live in the studio, with other instruments and vocals layered on afterwards, Haines' impressive keyboard skills (only hinted at in her other work) and alluring, throaty voice mesh perfectly; the combination gives Knives Don't Have Your Back the intimacy of a '70s singer/songwriter album, or perhaps that of a small-combo jazz album. That last comparison isn't at all that far-fetched: Haines is the daughter of the late Montreal jazz poet Paul Haines, and the spare black-on-gold all-text artwork is undoubtedly an homage to the similarly austere covers of her father's best-known albums, the Carla Bley collaborations Escalator Over the Hill and Tropic Appetites. An even closer comparison is Robert Wyatt, who provides a glowing testimonial on the back cover. Like Wyatt's solo work, Haines marries a sharp social conscience ("The Maid Needs a Maid," neatly riffing off an old Neil Young song, calmly eviscerates the frat-boy mentality in a single quiet verse) with a tendency toward elegiac, unhurried melodies. However, the keen pop scene that's Metric's strong suit can still be found on subtly hooky tunes like "Our Hell" and the simply lovely "Reading in Bed." Although far more low-key than Metric's nervy rock or Broken Social Scene's epic sweep, Knives Don't Have Your Back is a mature and engaging work revealing an exciting new side of Emily Haines, who is quietly turning into one of pop's most compelling presences.

Customer Reviews

Soft and smooth

Emily's dulcet voice is on exhibition in this album; it's perfect for those of us that listen to Metric primarily to hear her sing. The music is slower and quieter than Metric's, so Emily's voice is the real driving instrument, and it gives the music a heavy, rich tone. This music reminds me slightly of some of Radiohead's recent work -- full and deep, full of meaning and emotion. Fans of female vocals will love this album; people that are into Metric because of the high-energy, fun music may not be as enamoured of this effort.

Uninteresting Debut

Metric has never been the type of band to put out a "same-soundy" album, Emily Haines & Soft Skeleton's debut album suffers severely from ho hum, wearisome indistinguishability. After the first 3 amazing songs, the album gets increasingly plodding and uninteresting. By "The Lottery", the songs start to blur together in their piano heavy, ballad-centric, similarly sung, lazy sameness. I would go as far to say that 80% of the songs on "Knives Don't Got Your Back" are competely interchangeable. Nothing stands out besides the haunting "Our Hell", "Reading In Bed", "Crowd Surf Off A Cliff" and "Doctor Blind". Comparing this album to the band Emily is known for - Metric - it's disappointing. As a stand alone album, it's pedestrian, unvaried and vapid. At it's worst moments, it's painfully pretentious and maudlin.

Hear these songs live!

Soft and sweet. If you get the chance, go hear Emily Haines sing these songs live (Montreal show was great!). It's just so much warmer and more full live. And Emily Haines does have a sense of humor on stage.


Born: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Emily Haines is the frontwoman for Toronto's indie dance-rock band Metric. Although her first record arrived several years after Metric had formed, Haines had always been writing her own material. With the encouragement of a friend, Haines decided to record the songs so they wouldn't be forgotten. After four years of putting together an album in four cities (Los Angeles, Montreal, Toronto, New York) with various contributors she dubbed the Soft Skeleton, Last Gang Records released Knives Don't Have...
Full bio
Knives Don't Have Your Back, Emily Haines
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Pop, Music, Pop/Rock
  • Released: Sep 12, 2006

Customer Ratings