Unlike most, my first encounter with Emily Haines was not Metric, but her solo work as Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton. Mentioned somewhat absently as a record most anticipated by a friend whose opinion I admired, it was so deemed that I had to get this record, Knives Don’t Have Your Back.
I searched endlessly for it. Available online though a bit expensive for my time, and still enraptured in the search in the physical bins of record shop waste lands—because let’s admit it, the search is the most fun; I perused stores within my periphery that might in fact hold the keys to this new world.
I remember my first listening with it fondly. It was winter and snow was falling lightly. My Walkman in hand, I popped it in as I sat on a bench waiting for my future wife. I listened to it frequently waiting on benches in the not overly cold winter waiting for classes to be over and the daylight to cease.
Reading in Bed
who’s in a bad mood who’s in a taxi turning the clock back avoiding a
fight with this man he is meeting stands in the lobby counting his
questions in the neon light sinking under the river the sewer line
touches the edge of the suburbs back to the beach where a family is
waiting on rumors of summer
lay out a blanket bring something to feed the birds
with all the luck you’ve had why are your songs so sad you sing from a
book you were reading in bed and took to heart all of your lives unled
reading in bed
There’s a quality to the solo work. She released a follow-up EP titled What is Free to a Good Home?, which is basically a continuation via some re-imaginings and material unreleased with the previous record though most likely recorded around the same time. I cannot quite explain it, but with these two records she had and has my attention. Certainly more than with Metric, despite being an avid fan, but in line with very few artists who I hold with the highest regard for their other worldly abilities.
There’s nothing quite like her phrasings, song structure, and narrative considerations. There seems a closer proximity to the type of work she’d rather release, not necessarily in tempo, but in process and approach. Despite a performance that became Metric as she announced a need to have some fun.
These solo records are not the most upbeat. They are deeply personal considerations of experience that allow for a language uniquely her own. But she’s also got to make a living and unfortunately these records had the lifespan of most great art: come and gone with the wind, left but as a memory amongst the few who managed to grab a-hold.
I crave further material. Wish that there were some b-sides or other that might provide just a bit more than the already gleamed. But as with anything leaving desire, I also worry that if such work existed the mystique would be lost. The mystery evaporated with a bit of further exploration.
Crowd Surf Off a Cliff
Cursed with a love that you can’t express. It’s not for a fuck or a
Rather give the world away than wake up lonely, everywhere in every way
I see you with me. Crowd surf off a cliff, land out on the ice. Crowd
surf off to sea, float toward the beach. If you find me, hide me, I
don’t know where I’ve been. If you find me, hide me, I don’t know
where I’ve been.
Are we breathing, are we breathing, are we wasting our breath. It
won’t be enough to be rich. Rather give the world away than wake up
lonely, everywhere in every way I see you with me. All the babies
tucked away in their beds, we’re out here screaming, “The life that you
thought through is gone!” Can’t wind down, the ending outlasting the
move. I wake up lonely.
Crowd surf off a cliff, land out on the ice. Crowd surf off to sea,
float toward the beach. If you find me, hide me, I don’t know where
When you phone me tell me everything I did. If I’m sorry you lost me
you’d better make it quick ‘cause this call costs a fortune and it’s
late where you live, it’s late where you live.
These records are an opening. Doors to future territories as yet explored minimally and not fully understood. To be taken by some other explorer, not the one who presented the key and unleashed the beast within.