We Know It’s Only Rock N’ Roll But We Like It


BY JONATHAN VALANIA FOR THE INQUIRER On her debut, the deftly titled Knives Don’t Have Your Back, Emily Haines sets her husky alto whisper against melancholy piano chords and waltzing rhythm beds, coloring her reveries with mournful strings, funereal brass and swooning Moog atmospherics. Performing Sunday night in the cathedral of the sold-out First Unitarian Church, Haines was backed by Sparklehorse drummer Scott Minor and ex-Mercury Rev bassist Paul Dillon – neither man a stranger to the notion of a light touch making the silences in between the notes positively deafening – and Moog operator-projectionist Todor Kobakov.

A comely blonde in de rigueur, neo-’80s hipster attire, Haines pounded the horse teeth, intoning her muzzy melodies, while noirish abstractions created by filmmaker Guy Maddin – director of the acclaimed The Saddest Music in the World and Haines’ friend – was projected behind her. Pulling off a minor miracle, Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton managed to re-create their album’s dense ambiguities, low-key grandeur and many-splendored mood-swinging, from start to finish.

The weather, however, remains beyond her considerable powers of persuasion. “I made a winter record and winter never came,” Haines said, looking skyward toward the steady patter of January rain on the church roof.

INQUIRER: While Her Piano Gently Weeps

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