TrackBack - Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton's Knives Don't Have Your Back

TrackBack – Revisiting Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton’s Knives Don’t Have Your Back

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.

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197 thoughts on “TrackBack – Revisiting Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton’s Knives Don’t Have Your Back

  1. Heyho! Not here. Cottage. Thought I’d have left 3/4s of an hour ago!

    Have a good day, all…

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  2. Hiiii!
    Great job @reg! Yay! I liked this album, Our Hell still pops in my head from time to time.
    It’s gonna be a hot one.
    Why did “go jump in a lake” used to be an insult?
    “ummm, OKAY!”

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  3. I really liked this album and it was one of the first bunch of R3 artists albums I bought after listening to Grant’s podcasts.

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  4. @shonice – THANK YOU so very much for the lovely card!!! It was such a nice thing to receive. I had been staying at my moms the past week, so that’s why I hadn’t mentioned it until now. Hadn’t received it!

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  5. Your welcome Tiffy, I know, it’s always nice to get good mail isn’t it. ” Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was so much fun. Thanks again.

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  6. I hear the Lake Ontario beaches are a lot cleaner these days, but it has been a while since I jumped in any lake, I guess.

    There’s a stormwater management pond down the street(s) from me that’s laughably referred to as a “lake”, but I don’t think I’ll be jumping in that one any time soon.

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  7. I grew up beside lake Ontario pretty much my whole life. It just doesn’t seem clean to me. Granted – If I was far enough out of the city and it looked like a different lake…… it’s just hard to grow up beside Hamilton and all of the dirty factories that were right on the lake and then want to go swimming.

    I will wade. but up to my knees only thanks you.

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  8. yesterday i had a jumbo margarita in my hand, seated at the front of the party barge with 9-10 people and 4 dogs on board..it was choppy and i got soaked, lake water in the margarita several times, but the lake was the same color as the margarita so i figured it mixed well and drank it all anyway 😉

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  9. I feel the same way about the Chattahoochee river here in ATL, too dirty, i won’t set foot in it.

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  10. up at the lake this weekend a couple of the bigger dogs where constantly trying to rescue us from a relaxing swim next to the dock and would swim out and steal the swim noodles or whatever floaty thing we had with us. fortunately i survived without any major claw marks,.,.,.,.,,

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  11. maybe if you pour enough tequila in lake Ontario you could sterilize it… ya gotta think big, blimp rock big :0

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  12. Oh, swimming with dogs can be treacherous! Glad you escaped the gouges @hotpatch.
    I’m with @Samara, I so appreciate all the work that’s going into keeping the community not just alive but thriving! Huzzah! xo
    After updating the cbcmusic app on my phone I can listen to the R3 stream/playlist. Not impressed though. KEXP has been pleasing but I miss the all Canadian, all the time business. Oh well…onwards…

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  13. US Independence Day / 4th of July is my favorite holiday, but last night my neighborhood seemed like a war zone, mortars going off everywhere. Duke was inconsolable just about, I drove an hour out of town into the woods. Then he was interested in the vermin out there so we still could not sleep in the back of my Element. So, drove back into town back to my house. 4th of July in Bend was much easier than Portland. I’m on 4 hours of sleep, I’m tired.

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  14. @justingrady: my friend in LA (1st-time Canadian in the US for July 4th) said that people were setting off fireworks all day long and that it was really disorienting. Um, it’s daylight…? Doesn’t that diminish the effect of the fireworks? but I guess you guys just celebrate from sunrise to sunset–except for dogs and dog owners 😦

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  15. @loweeda…. I’m sure it depends on the city, but yes, people tend to blow stuff up all day, more at night though. My plan this year was to go camping way out in the middle of nowhere with no fireworks in sight but friends came into town from Nebraska whom I hadn’t seen in a couple years and my Stepmom is in hospital again for a cancer complication, so I def stuck around.

    Next year, I want to do a badass trip to cool lake in the mountains to camp by, something like that.

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  16. i’m really over people blowing shit up for the fourth, aren’t you supposed to get over the entertainment value of personal fire works when you’re 8-9 years old?

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  17. @justin: haha, “people tend to blow stuff up all day” really sounds like an American stereotype! (sorry*). Camping sounds like a much better way to appreciate your country–especially where you live. Sorry to hear about your step-mom. I hope that gets sorted out.

    *Canadian stereotype 😉

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  18. loweeda, maybe a stereo type but ya know; a capitalist empire that is morally bankrupt and ignores the peoples true history, it figures all we can do is blow shit up to celibrate the sorry state of affairs :l

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  19. I appreciate your cynicism, hotpatch. We Canadians can be smug these days with our shiny new prime minister, but we have (and will have) things to be cynical about, too.

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  20. Hello!
    This album is great, isn’t it?

    Thank you for reading! Loweeda, Lucky, Samara, thank you for your lovely comments.

    I love big Blimp Rock-plans! And I wish I had a Great Lake down the street. I’d hang out there all the time. We’re so far away from any decent body of water, I just love them all.

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  21. hi! I am so happy this site is up. I thought the blog died when they dropped the DJ’s. I had hoped R3 would be a constant in my life. Grant had teased about getting back into podcasts but that has yet to happen; I am still holding out hope. One thing that I used R3 for was finding new Canadian music, which seems to be lacking on the stream. Could someone do a post on good spottily people to follow or other ways they are finding new misc in a post R3 world? I have never understood how it is just so natural for some people to find new stuff. As a contribution I can suggest a band called Folly and the Hunter from Montreal. They play beautiful music, I absolutely love their harmonies.

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  22. @shuf(f)le: well, for every Pride parade march there’s a Saudi arms deal, right? But I’d still rather be Canadian right now than almost anything else–except maybe Icelandic. They have a better soccer team.

    Unrelated, it is tricky to type your name correctly with those () in there. Signed, Lowe(e)da

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  23. @sitrucj

    Exposing (I initially tried to type Explosing…) new music is one of our primary goals. We will definitely be writing about acts we think you should be hearing in the future. I also try to fit in a handful of artists people haven’t heard/may have forgotten about in each of my playlists, like this one I did last Friday for Canada Day (https://ourbasementblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/our-anthem-a-top-of-our-lungs-playlist/)

    I’ll check out Folly and the Hunter, too.

    Finally, welcome to OurBasement! Were you active on the blog before? What was your handle there? I was Zammachus.

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  24. @loweeda I heartedly agree. I believe we should hold those we look to leadership for to a higher standard. Trudeau is mocked for being a selfie PM so he is going to have to work hard to prove that he is not, no matter how much we like him. Like Grant, will he show here and be part of our group or was he always just playing a part with the CBC and pretending to be one of us because it was his job? If he comes here and How Dare’s Me, great. If he doesn’t well, then, Baboom I guess..

    PS, the (f) is silent.

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  25. OK, well then from now on I’m pronouncing your name as “shoo-ful” in my mind. My extra (e) is LOUD!

    I don’t think Grant will show up here, tbh. I think he’s moved on from his R3 days. He’s a grownup with two kids now.

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  26. Great minds, krib!

    Oh, and I’m glad you’re here, because I’ve been wanting to ask you a) if you’ve heard the new Little Scream album and if you have b) if it reminds you of Jane Siberry as much as it reminds me of her. In a good way, mind you.

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  27. so, I think me and the boy are heading to edmonton to see Isbell play

    hey, has SRK joined us here yet?

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  28. I haven’t yet, except that one song that sounds like Prince to me. It’s on eMusic; I should buy it

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  29. anyway – Isbell.
    means I’ll miss Friday at RFF, which is a shame because it looks like the best day by far. I’m going to miss an electro-swing group 😦

    Still, Isbell only seems to come to Canada once per summer to play a festival. I’m guessing Edmonton is as close to Toontown as he’s ever going to get

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  30. @loweeda, what do you mean by individual posts? That we can write them? Or are you referring to being able to link to a specific comment?

    Like

  31. @Library Voices

    Auto-refreshing will be coming when we have everything sorted for our new site. This is just a temporary front until we migrate to a fully-functional platform.

    Welcome to OurBasement!

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  32. Hello, the Voices of my workplace. You have to refresh the screen to, uh, refresh the screen.

    @krib: I’m becoming more and more tentative about attending RFF this year. It’s been an expensive summer and–although RFF is a cheap trip, relatively speaking–it adds up. And if you’re not going to be there for one night, well…
    (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

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  33. @krib shuffle (dammit can’t find an egu or aygoo or however the heck it’s spelled) is as easy to make as pie.
    (Keep in mind that I find a good pie crust a rarity)
    I believe that srk came by the 1st post to say hey…amIright?

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  34. Along with the new to come site….

    I have question for everyone. How are all of you logging in for commenting? Using a WordPress, Twitter, or other social linked account? Or, creating a new user account on here? This will help me to make sure commenting works as it should on the new site.

    Like

  35. Ah! No worries! It’s a good workout for my fingers that are out of shape anyway. I actually just thought it was my fault for not knowing how to work the internet.

    Like

  36. @justin: I’m using my WordPress.com login, because I already had a WordPress account that just happened to have my R3 username attached.

    Like

  37. I think we should offer the option to register and get an account, but we should also offer a login via FB and/or Twitter. Not everyone is fond if signing up.

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  38. @reginula .. that is the plan. I am working on that now, just not working fully yet. My main priority is my day work, my contracts, etc, but then I focus on the new site dev in the evening.

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  39. @Justin – I’m just putting an email and user name below. Not logging in via twitter, WP, FB, Googs

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  40. @Library Voices: one of my favourite questions! I’d have to say (in no particular order):

    Beyonce
    Chance the Rapper
    Radiohead
    PUP
    hmm…#5 is a wild card, I guess. I can’t pick.

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  41. 5 favourite?

    oh gosh. I’ve been listening to alot of The New Pornorgaphers. But that’s exactly a big surprise.

    I like the new badbadnotgood album

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  42. I think I have figured out my stR3am problems. I’m using the new ( recently updated) CBC music app, seems to be working now *fingers crossed

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  43. @Library Voices
    My current favourite new album is PUP’s. Case/Lang/Veirs is amazing. Playing a lot of Weakerthans a usual, but my current favourite is Reunion Tour. Hannah Georgas’ new one is gooood. And I’ve been hearing a lot of Blimp Rock since they played the picnic.

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  44. I just had a very encouraging meeting with my CEO and I feel great. Remember folks – if you are an employer, a little pat on the pack to your employees goes a long way

    Liked by 1 person

  45. I’m still listening to Alysha Brilla’s last album, Womyn, which I picked up after RFF last year

    and a lot of Isbell and Blackie & the rodeo kings

    and Swing Republic, an electro-swing group

    A couple from last year I listen to a lot still: Dream it all Away by Leeroy Stagger and Strange Trails by Lord Huron

    a couple from 2016 are the new Selina Martin and the new MBF album, I Wanna Make it with you

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  46. and I’m a big fan of the new Ben Caplan album, Birds with Broken Wings, after seeing him live this past weekend

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  47. I’m pretty sure I followed all of you on our insta – but if I missed someone, be sure to follow our basement account @ourbasement.ca

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  48. the world we live in….(from the above article)

    “The company did not admit to any wrongdoing, but it did agree to pay each plaintiff $9,000 US and cover the $450,000 they had accumulated together in legal fees.”

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  49. I suppose a benefit of having the blog run by a community of members is now you have access to the server logs to figure out who’s posting under novelty accounts. Good luck keeping your identity under wraps now, Grnat! Unless you’re one of the blog administrators. Or use Tor.

    Like

  50. @loozrboy… it’s even easier than server logs. WordPress in the backend gives info, that ‘tumbleweed’ provdies, or Grnat. That might change a bit with the new site. We are still working that out.

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  51. I would have assumed Grnat would take the effort to put in a fake email address, but perhaps not 🙂

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  52. I am definitely not Loozrboy masquerading as somebody else. No need to check my IP or anything.

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  53. Playing even more Blimp Rock to celebrate the birth of Hotpatch’s BRILLIANT phrase. Every day it hurts to release some great bands aren’t well known but this guys are so funny I think they deserve much better.

    Let’s see if this works…

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  54. zammy , reginula, thanks for putting up the Blimp Rock, campy but i like it .. i feel like maybe R3 didn’t play them much because R3 was concerned about their own co0l factor. fuck that …if your’e worried about it you’re not it

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  55. Been experimenting with making my own “Frappucino”-like beverages at home.

    Definitely needs more work.

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  56. Hi all!
    Great article reginula. I loved that album. More than most of Metric’s albums.

    I will try to catch up to the blog at some point but no time at the moment.

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  57. @hotpatch What do you mean by ‘campy’? I guess R3 didn’t hear about them until Searchlight (like we all did. But if they didn’t and knew before: SHAAAME). I’m indecisive about their cool factor (I mean, about the whole concept), but I think they are funny and great!

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  58. @reginlua sometimes looking/listening back is so sweet! thanks for putting this in front of me and packing it up so nicely with your thoughtful words.

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  59. @garfielduk #1163 nope, that would be like looking at the price tag on a gift. i know she will be very thankful. and i thank you for your continued friendship too:)

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  60. Does anyone else find the audio on Spotify tends to skip a lot? Like a fraction of a second every couple minutes. Pretty annoying.

    I’m wondering if it could be my ad blocker interfering with its attempts to insert ads in the stream… but I hope it’s not not trying to stick ads in the middle of songs, multiple times per song :-p

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  61. @loozerboy #1166 I have not noticed any skipping … i get the ads and they have never been in the middle of a song. that would be terribly annoying. i hope you find a remedy.

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  62. I guess I should try disabling my ad blocker and see what that does for me. Since they offer a premium ad-free version, there’s really no need to cheat.

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  63. reginula, 12:35, by campy i mean sort of amusing and maybe not really polished. i’m pretty sure CBC knows just about everything going on in Torontoland so i don’t think it was necessarily searchlight that got them on R3, but if it was, they certainly didn’t promote the band like they do many of their favorites. anyway this is the first time i’ve heard the whole Blip Rock CD and i love the vocals and harmonies on it esp the songs that are new to me

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  64. @Hotpatch I think they are great! I’m glad you liked it. Any favourites so far? As for the Ceeb… I don’t know, I have reasons to believe both things (They not knowing / Knowing and not paying attention). Wish they have given them more exposure. I think they had like a single or two after Searchlight. I remember Grant really liked them.

    Also, did you know they have TWO albums? 😀 https://play.spotify.com/album/3s5l15EhYSSeS6XmDtMDpX

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  65. It’s 23 here, Justin! It’s just clouds and rain make it chilly. Not trading with you.

    WHY DO I ALWAYS SCREW THE SPOTIFY THING

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  66. Toronto’s expected overnight low for tonight 20 is warmer than our expected high for tomorrow 17

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  67. How about y’all keep your shitty weather and I go set on my deck with a rum slushie? 😉

    If you really want to trade today, you have to accept a trade in February too.

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  68. @Loozr, I’m not complaining, I don’t have to drink a litre of waterwater an hour if I am dumb enough to go outside in daylight here :p

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  69. You know, I don’t think I’d mind winter at all if it was 5 days long. It’s the 110th day that really makes me want to kill myself.

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  70. I guess my non-drinking makes me a lightweight drinker.

    @Garf oooops. I had half of it already by the time I read that.

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  71. My power utility charges more at peak hours based on the overall power demand for the day, which in practice means it’s higher on hot days (our rate this afternoon is nearly 10 times what it was this morning), and my “smart” thermostat adjusts the A/C to use less power when it’s more expensive. The upshot: it’s kinda warm in here right now. Where’s that rum slushie?

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  72. It’s 22C and sunny now, just about perfect. I’ll trade the Portland winter for any of the Canada winter one’s, even Edmonton’s. The constant rain for a typical Portland is dreadful.

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  73. @top of our lungs (Zammachus) I wasn’t much of a contributor on the old blog. I was collar2, then sitrucj, but I have been listening to R3 since the first road trip mixtape podcast. Sorry for being silent for so long. I just think it is great this is still a thing. PS I am also sorry this post is so late, i hope you see it. Work happened.

    Liked by 2 people

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