By Regina Sienra
In 2006, Emily Haines was well on her way to becoming the stadium-filling figure she is today. Metric’s second album, Live It Out – released in the fall of 2005 – would go double platinum, landing them an opportunity to open for The Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden in New York City. That same year, Haines took one of the most daring steps of her career by releasing her semi-solo album Knives Don’t Have Your Back under the name Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton.
Haines, a fierce frontwoman and writer of confrontational, battlefield-ready songs, found herself with a collection of tracks that didn’t fit Metric’s framework. Despite of having been composed by her at the piano, like every song her band has ever recorded, the 11 tracks that form Knives Don’t Have Your Back are brought together by a dark, but beautiful thread of disconsolation.
In a 2009 interview with About Entertainment, Haines talked about her reluctance to join the “clichéd self-reflective-girl-with-a-piano” genre. Knives meant giving in and taking the time to be sad in a period marked by introspection about her own rising star and the death of her father, renowned jazz poet Paul Haines.
“Metric is, in many ways, my friends ‘cheering up’ my songs”, Haines said in the same interview. But that time, it was hopeless. Instead of bringing comfort, her musician friends – like Stars’ Evan Cranley, Broken Social Scene’s Justin Peroff and Metric’s own Jimmy Shaw – brought soft, distorted textures to enhance Haines’ voice and work on the piano.
Knives debut at #28 in Canada and has had a long and successful existence. It landed on NOW Magazine’s 50 Best Toronto Albums seven years after its release and “Doctor Blind,” the first single, found a spot on Pitchfork’s Top 500 tracks of the 2000s.
Haines would reprise The Soft Skeleton’s role once more for What Is Free To a Good Home, a six-song EP. Ten years later after Knives, Haines and Metric are almost estranged to the indie-icon cocoon, but Knives remains not only an album that keeps amazing company in a moment of great sadness, but a memento of a strong songwriter who dared to go into the shadows and emerged victoriously.