Be­yond the Met­ric sys­tem

Haines’ new solo al­bum un­apolo­get­i­cally self-in­dul­gent

Metro Canada (Ottawa) - - Front Page -

It’s gen­tly ex­tended as a com­pli­ment, but one still frets that Emily Haines might take the ob­ser­va­tion that her new solo al­bum, Choir of the Mind, is more than a lit­tle “self-in­dul­gent” the wrong way.

The prom­ise of un­tram­melled self-in­dul­gence is, of course, en­tirely the rea­son why mu­si­cians such as Haines take leave from time to time of their bet­ter­known day jobs — in her case, fronting the highly suc­cess­ful indie-rock quar­tet Met­ric — to make records on their own. That is, how­ever, also en­tirely the rea­son why so many of those records wind up be­ing not very good.

Haines, how­ever, had no prob­lem meet­ing any of the el­e­vated ex­pec­ta­tions brought on by the early Met­ric cat­a­logue in 2006 when she struck out on her own un­der the rather neb­u­lous ban­ner of Emily Haines and the Soft Skele­ton to cre­ate the som­bre, stately and sub­tly riv­et­ing solo so­journ Knives Don’t Have Your Back, nor the com­pelling ex­pan­sion upon that al­bum’s pa­tient, pi­ano-guided cham­ber-pop pal­ette that was its 2007 fol­lowup EP, What Is Free to a Good Home?

She in­dulged her­self well be­yond the pa­ram­e­ters of Met­ric’s tart indie-pop punch then to lit­tle com­plaint, and she does it again with even less at­ten­tion to verse/cho­rus/verse con­ven­tion on the free-float­ing Choir of the Mind. Aside from an ex­hil­a­rat­ing liftoff into a mo­torik ether peo­pled by over­laid Emilys chat­ter­ing “The things they own, they own you” on lead sin­gle Fa­tal Gift, and a coyly fem­i­nist swish into bossa nova on Stat­uette, the al­bum mostly un­spools over lan­guid pi­ano ar­range­ments and bub­bling-un­der heart­beat per­cus­sion both or­ganic and elec­tronic at a pace even more un­hur­ried than that of its pre­de­ces­sors.

By the time you get to the seven-minute ti­tle track, you’re ei­ther in or you’re out. It is un­apolo­get­i­cally self-in­dul­gent. And she doesn’t mind if you say so.

“I felt those mo­ments, too — mostly in, like, the lengths of the songs,” she says, nev­er­the­less in­sist­ing that ap­point­ing her­self Choir’s pro­ducer didn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean it was al­ways “see Emily play” in the stu­dio. “That’s the thing: I’m a re­ally harsh edi­tor. But in this case I in­dulged the lengths of the songs, I think, al­most com­i­cally ...

“The idea is, if the record is work­ing for some­one, that it’s a re­spite. It’s this idea that we wake up in the morn­ing and we have so much that we have to con­sume — and it’s a very ab­stract thing to try to de­scribe or to aim for — so I wanted this to be kind of like a vapour and a re­prieve from that.

“It’s not like I’m chal­leng­ing you, it’s like: ‘If this is the way you want to feel, the voice will just lead you in and then it’s just on and it’ll stay with you.’ I’m not try­ing to dan­gle bells and whis­tles at you. It’s just ‘If this is where you want to be, stay.’ It’s not try­ing to im­press you and stim­u­late you the whole time. It’s kind of just keep­ing you com­pany.”


“I’ve al­ways been nose-to-the-grind­stone,” says Emily Haines, about her work ethic. “My days for this were back to the way that I started, which is ive hours at the pi­ano. Two hours, take a break, back at the pi­ano, get it un­der your in­gers, prac­tice, prac­tice, prac­tice, writ­ing, prac­tice, de­vel­op­ing the live show.”

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