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Arts and Entertainment

Lighting up to join the coping crowd

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Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton
What Is Free to a Good Home?
Last Gang Records
released, July 24, 2007

Emily Haines' (of Metric) latest EP What is Free to a Good Home? is by far her greatest solo work to date. I've always felt that her debut full length Knives Don't Have Your Back was hit or miss, mostly the latter. I expect a lot from Ms. Haines. The songs just weren't as hard hitting and coherent as I had envisioned them to be.

What is Free to a Good Home? starts out with the smooth jazz "Rowboat". A chorus of prolonged horns ushers you into a song full of meandering piano lines, steady brush-hit drums, and Haines' breathtaking vocal melodies. "The Bank" is my favorite track on the EP. Over which Haines croons the poignant lines: "Whatever it is spit it into a bottle and sell it to me/I’m looking to buy freedom from my sobriety/Just like Huey Lewis/I need a new drug/I need a new drink/I need a new drug that does what it should".

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Sometimes I feel dejected enough to identify with this bleak, substance-abused message. I just never vocalize it and that's why it's so amazing to hear lines like these gracefully trilled by Haines. She's got the same wacko propensities that you do, but she's willing to divulge them. Brilliant.

"Telethon" is an elegant, minimal piano ballad showcasing Haines mellifluous vocals. However, when I arrive at the interlude I want to vomit as she nearly ruins the song trying to phrase the most awkward set of words ever: "Bruised Billy Joel New York state of mind". Why Emily why?! Great comparisons, but the name dropping simply needs to stop.

Haines really breaks out the melancholy material with "Bottom Of The World". This song is clearly the result of a tremendously dispirited, heartbroken Haines. The hyperbole lies within the title, which is a familiar phrase that's left my lips whilst in the doldrums. "Bottom Of The World" embodies the vicious cycle of self-deprecatory thoughts that you engage in when you're at the lowest of lows.

"Mostly Waving" is the anomaly of the EP. It's the only song that makes use of a full drum kit and electronic elements, which I've come to closely associate with Metric. The consistent percussive tinks and dub-like bass lines are delicately placed within the minimal electronic presentation. "Mostly Waving" could easily pass as an early Metric song circa the Grow Up and Blow Away days. Oh, how I miss those fine days.

If you weren't a huge fan of Emily Haines' debut full length Knives Don't Have Your Back, then I wholeheartedly suggest you check out What is Free to a Good Home? The songs are much more well-thought out and it leaves you wondering: "What if Ms. Haines had spent more time in pre-production for Knives Don't Have Your Back?" The full length just might have turned out as well as these tunes did.

Sample What is Free to a Good Home? below:

Emily Haines - "The Bank"

Emily Haines - "Mostly Waving"