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emily haines appreciation piece

I was perusing the options for my piece this week, deciding between Tame Impala’s Innerspeaker and Massive Attack’s Heligoland. Both albums are excellent and would’ve made my Best of 2010 piece had there been room. In the midst of combing my library, I came across Metric’s Fantasies and realized something pretty important. I spend so much of my time looking for and talking about new music and new bands that I’ve failed to give one of my favorite bands ever some love on lipmag.

Fantasies played a huge part in my life during the first part of 2009. A friend of a friend of a friend is the booking manager for Metric’s US shows and somehow I got an advanced copy of Fantasies in January 2009. I was living in London at the time, so poor that I could barely afford the tube, which meant I had 40-minute plus walks to get to uni and all my other extracurricular activities, like shopping and drinking. I probably listened to Fantasies (all 42 minutes, 30 seconds of it) hundreds of times between January and June of 2009. I played it all the time, everyday. I never got sick of it. I never get sick of it.

About a week after I returned to the US, I saw Metric in June 2009 in Manhattan. I was blown away. I know I use that phrase too liberally, especially when talking about live music, but I really mean it this time. I was absolutely blown away at how good Emily Haines was at keeping the energy high and absolutely killing it on the stage.

This is an Emily Haines appreciation piece.

In the past year and half since that show, I’ve become enthralled with all of Emily Haines’s projects. The more I get to know about her and her art, the more I like her. Sure, she’s clearly at least a little messed up, but what great artist isn’t? I like hearing about her thoughts and fears because she a brilliant artist that isn’t afraid to share her pain with the world. She wrote “Help I’m Alive” (listen to the album version and the acoustic version) in anticipation of hearing her label’s response to the first few songs off Fantasies. Her openness and talent is what draws me in.

Apart from being the kind of musician I wish I could be, I love Emily Haines because she is so versatile. She got her start with the Canadian ambient rock outfit Broken Social Scene, which features other indie superstars like Amy Millan (of Stars) and Leslie Feist (of Feist). Their first album Feel Good Lost got me through most of my thesis writing and to this day it still comforts me. I’ll never listen to it without thinking of the fourth floor of the University of Arizona library. It’s a really coherent, pleasant album that never gets old. Feel Good Lost is the best background music I’ve ever found (besides Sigur Ros’s Takk…).

Her solo project, Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton, sounds kind of like the acoustic version of “Help I’m Alive” I posted earlier in this article. My favorite song of theirs is “The Last Page” because it really shows off everything she’s doing differently with this band – the sound is more piano-driven, quieter and deeper. It’s the kind of music you put on before boarding a plane or when it’s raining outside. Metric , on the other hand, is the kind of music I like to listen to when I’m walking through a crowded city or getting ready to go out – the rounded out sound makes more sense when I’m surrounded by huge crowds.

While I enjoy “Grow Up and Blow Away” and “Soft Rock Star (Jimmy vs. Joe Mix)” off Grow Up and Blow Away, my favorite Metric song of all time is “Blindness” off Fantasies. This song encapsulates all of Emily Haines’s moods by borrowing different sounds from her various projects to produce something awesome. “Blindness” builds in a way that reflects everything Emily has to offer artistically: slow build up, plenty of room for her breathy quiet vocals and explosive instrumentals that never overpower the lyrics or her vocals. I really love this song so much because it’s relevant to my life, but I’m going to pretend that I’m not that narcissistic. It never ceases to amaze me, though, that somehow this little blonde thing has encapsulated everything I’ve been feeling concerning “growing up” into an incredibly well-polished 4 minute, 30 second burst of sound whose lyrics make me want to cry but whose beat ends up making me dance. To be able to do that is something artistic, something special.

Emily Haines rocks my world so hard because she achieves something that only true artists can, and she does it in three very different ways with three very different bands. She consistently puts out technically coherent, melodically pleasing music with deep messages that are effortlessly emotional roots. Her ability to communicate things that are both so easy and so complex is exactly what I’ve spent most of my life chasing and perfecting. Whether she’s feeling ambient, quiet, or like tearing the house down that day; she’s always able to successfully convey deep human truths through her art.

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