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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton
Knives Don't Have Your Back
Last Gang

Rating: 8.5/10 ?

September 21, 2006
Emily Haines, front woman for the band Metric, has the keys to her closet and she's opened it up for all to take a gander at her collection of skeletons.

Knives Don't Have Your Back, Haines' solo debut, possesses the air of Elliot Smith's ethereality and is backed by Spoon-like piano-driven rhythms and hooks. An inelegant, recreational air balances the beauty. The atmosphere is moody and steady: eeriness produced by echoes, sad wailing horns, and other instrumental effects intertwines with the classical charm of piano keys, occasional strings and smooth vocals.

The album has a lonesome down lull, translating into themes of isolation. Her voice is soft, sometimes empty, in the sense that its body has no flesh, but only the skeleton keys - she's hitting the vocal notes perfectly, but emits little emotion. It's as if the speaker is slipping into and out of this world.

As such, the songs present cycles of life and love: a dissonant beginning, a break and turn; and finally there comes a soft, slow drift of resolution. This is most notable in Haines' "Reading in Bed." The chorus is a repetitive piano line twinned with similarly repetitive lyrics "some say" which trail into casual speech and move into a high vocal turn that melts permanence for a moment.

Haines admits, "I still don't know what is permanent, permanent," and who amongst us does? But in the discomfort of that knowledge, there is beauty and maybe deeper knowledge. If it's so, Haines displays it with this collection of songs.
Not that it's sappy, at all.

The songs are emotive, and yet have catchy hooks; they are at times unrestrained and at others, calculated. There are songs like "Mostly Waving," an upbeat track with a rhythmic intro/verse form that is quite repetitive, but breaks at the moment when it gets tiresome. It becomes dynamic and melts into a melodic resolve, backed by ghostly oooooing and carried by a brass band.

Emily Haines' band, "the Soft Skeleton" isn't made up of lightweights. Sparklehorse's Scott Minor added instrumental tracks throughout the album, Broken Social Scene's Justin Peroff and Stars' Evan Cranley contributed horns. Todor Kobakov added strings to a few songs (and if you're a fool for strings, this album will have you head over heels).

The instrumentation enriches the album, providing the songs with a professional finish. Though, with some of the songs, it's hard to figure out if it's compelling because it sounds like a woman playing alone in her room, unaware of her audience. Haines' songs certainly flirt with the ethereal, but they also present the ability to play with the boundary between the professional and the musing, very real person behind the sound. As much as it bites, we're stuck in reality. Still though, as Haines sings, "our hell is a good life."

Reviewed by Sara Williams
Sara Williams writes and lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her life revolves around music, which she plays, listens to, thinks in, writes of and is absorbed by. She has a degree in creative writing from UC Santa Cruz, a school in a lovely little town between the forest and the sea. She argues a mean leftist politics with a sweet but sharp tongue and is happy to be lost at sea searching for an Octopusís Garden in the shade.

See other reviews by Sara Williams



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