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CD of The Week

Week of 9/25/17

    Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton - Choir of the Mind (Last Gang)

    Metric frontwoman Emily Haines has channeled her creative energy into her band for most of her career but back in 2006, she went solo under the name Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton. This project was essentially just her and a piano, with a hushed set of personal songs written after the death of her father. Almost a decade later, Haines has revived the moniker for Choir of the Mind, a more expansive record full of complex lyrical concepts.

    Choir of the Mind again has Emily and her piano at the center, with interesting production flourishes, percussion and sampled, looped vocals all bolstering the tracks with the aid of her longtime bandmate Jimmy Shaw.

    Lead single "Fatal Gift" questions materialism by asking when enough is enough ("Haven't we made enough for a living wage?") and notes that "The things you own they own you." It hearkens back to the themes of "Handshakes" from Metric's Live It Out record, where Haines sang "Buy this car to drive to work / Drive to work to pay for this car."

    The haunting "Wounded" uses a take on the classic Jason Voorhees-Friday the 13th "chh chh chh/ahh ahh ahh" theme as a spine for the track. "Statuette" tears down wealthy, sexist creeps over a surprising samba beat. The stately "Legend of the Wild Horse" is another highlight.

    The title track is, of course, the centerpiece of the record, picking up on an ongoing theme of dwelling on regrets and negative thoughts – the choir of your mind dragging you down mentally. Haines' lyrics give way to a reciting of lines from the poem "Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol," significant because Haines' poet father gave her the middle name Savitri.

    With songs like "Nihilist Abyss," you have to be in a certain state of mind to listen to Choir of the Mind, which over the course of an hour rarely veers from its moody melancholia. But if you're a fan of Metric and especially Haines' voice, it's a must-hear.

    Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton will perform at Union Transfer on November 29th for a rare, seated show.
    Review by Joey O.

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