Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton
What is Free to a Good Home?
[Last Gang; 2007]
Turns out the predecessor to the new EP from Emily Haines and her assembled band the Soft Skeleton was one of the more overlooked records of last year. With hindsight, Knives Don't Have Your Back was a comparatively grown-up whisper in the company of Haines' louder, more slickly aggressive work as the frontwoman of Metric. In this scenario, it was easy to superficially dismiss Knives at face value: A one-off vanity project from an artist very familiar with collaboration. Yet that appraisal couldn't be further from the truth; both Knives, as well as its five-song followup What Is Free to a Good Home?, are wonderfully singular works themselves, quite possibly representative of Haines' primary musical strength all along.
Like much of the music from the Broken Social Scene cooperative, Home is forged with a muted eccentricity, rendering Haines' soft piano/voice jazz compositions woozy enough to complement the exhaustion in her voice. For example, the sighing brass that opens "Rowboat" and accompanies "Telethon" doesn't feel too far removed from the 3 a.m. trip-hop behind the remixed version of "Mostly Waving" that closes the record. Lyrically, Home is as lonesome as Knives, yet the songs here are tuned to the specific type of weary solitude that gradually coalesces after successive nights of public socializing. In the song that takes its name from her unfortunate afterhours destination, she bemoans to a clique, "you left me in a bar at the bottom of the world," and on "Telethon", she's reached the point at which "daylight's like fluorescent light." She's both worn and reaching out, but in a language leftover from last night's jukebox, or perhaps a late-night VH1 Classic binge. "Telethon" finds her in a "bruised, Billy Joel New York State of Mind," and on "The Bank", she asks, "Just like Huey Lewis, I need a new drug...that does what it should."
Home's spirit isn't strictly devoted to pop-culture coated ruminations, however. Those with keen visual memories and/or an interest in the Canadian avant-garde might notice a similarity between its cover art (and Knives') and that of the 1971 record Escalator Over the Hill, a collaboration between pianist/composer Carla Bley and poet Paul Haines, Emily's late father. His 2003 passing cast a pall over much of Knives, and this EP's release coincides with that of his first poetry compilation, Secret Carnival Workers. Of Home, Haines admitted in in a May interview with Pitchfork's Matthew Solarski, "It's kind of like the final installment of my homage to my freaky, avant upbringing." The record shares its title with a poem Paul wrote for the guitarist Robert Wyatt (who wrote the liner notes for Knives), and also features a light-headed treatment of his poem "Sprig". Especially when considering the heavy-lidded sentiment preceding it, Emily singing Paul's line "falling asleep for the fifth time early in the morning," is much too appropriate to be anything but familial.
-Eric Harvey, July 25, 2007
http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/article/r ... -good-home