Metric front woman projects quieter tone on 2nd solo album
Wendy Lynch photo
Emily Haines likens her second solo outing, Knives Don’t Have Your Back, to a film soundtrack — albeit one that had been lying around dormant for four years.
"A lot of these songs had been in my life for a long time and recently revamped," the 32-year-old front woman for Metric explains. "But it very much felt like a current project by the time I was into recording the songs. It was just that the process of getting this album up and running took about four years."
In between that time, of course, Haines and then-boyfriend James Shaw had immersed themselves in getting Metric up and fully running in New York, occasionally jetting back to Toronto to contribute as members of Broken Social Scene and temporarily bunking down in Los Angeles and Montreal. Haines’ poet dad, Paul Haines, also passed away during that time period — and his absence is hauntingly felt in two Knives cuts, Reading In Bed and Mostly Waving.
"After he died (in 2002), I had a sense of urgency to live my own life," Haines says. "That’s why I had to finish this record as quickly as I could. There are all sorts of inside jokes between me and him on this record.
"Of course, he’s not here to pick up on them, but it felt good to continue the conversation nonetheless."
Childhood appears to play an important theme on the album. Haines once mentioned that one of the first songs she penned was "a love song to a cranberry tree," played on a muted piano and meant only to be heard by her and no one else. Hence the reason that, compared to the brash, bold and confident Metric albums Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? and Live It Out, Knives Don’t Have Your Back — supported by a group of pals she’s dubbed The Soft Skeleton — is a more low-key, introspective outing.
"Even though there are some themes that are darker in nature, these aren’t sad stories," Haines says, without getting too much into specifics. "They’re meant to be a useful examination of the moments I’ve lived. Everyone I know struggles with this thing called reality. We all try to do our best but it’s hard to get a handle on what it is sometimes."
While a childhood fan of Carla Bley and Robert Wyatt, Haines also pays some nods and winks to classic rockers. The Maid Needs A Maid certainly references to Neil Young’s string-laden 1972 tune, A Man Needs A Maid. And Haines’ original title for Knives was meant to be called Teenage Daydream.
"In the end, I thought it sounded too much like the David Bowie song Moonage Daydream," Haines says. "I still was going to go with that title, but then I found a compilation of Bowie songs that somebody put together and had called it A Teenage Daydream."
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In addition to fronting Metric, Haines also performs with Broken Social Scene, and has been a guest on albums by Stars, KC Accidental, Delerium and Jason Collett.