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Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton – Choir of the Mind 

Sunday 10th, September 2017 / 09:00
By Trent Warner

Last Gang Records 

Over 10 years after releasing her first solo endeavour, Knives Don’t Have Your Back, Emily Haines is back with Choir of The Mind. The album once again centers around her piano playing and poetic prose style, but here her vocals are used to create venerable layers of instrumentation. Where Haines’ project previously focused on the misery that comes with loss, she’s more hopeful here, exploring the inner recesses of her mind and the strengths of femininity. 

For Haines, feminine strength comes from softness. On “Strangle All Romance” she is ghostly and rough; vocal reverberations through a mountain valley. It’s deeply personal, her equivalent of flexing a muscle. She sings: “Love is my labour of life/ we’ll tear it up.” The song transitions into “Wounded,” where she acknowledges the repercussions of her open heart. 

“Statuette” galvanizes on these themes further, examining the traditional hierarchy between men and women in relation to social power. Haines replicates these roles to place her at the feet of a male contemporary, who has the creed and material possessions to “buy any girl in the world.” The backing beat mimics the worst type of elevator music, adding to the sleaze of her counterpart. 

The standout is the title track, “Choir of the Mind.” It’s as if the artist has voiced all of the concurrent thoughts within her head to create a deconstructed monologue atop her own meditative lullaby. It’s poetic, melodic, and painfully introspective. 

Haines has a way of evoking drama through her pace, which is often her biggest asset. Some may be turned off by the downtempo scenes she creates, but for a reflective listener, it’s an exercise in meditation.

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