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February 2021
Review

Emily Haines - Choir of the Mind

Introspective and deeply personal.
Emily Haines - Choir of the Mind
Published: 3:43 pm, September 14, 2017
Introspective and deeply personal.

Label: Last Gang Records/eONe
Released: 15th September 2017
Rating: ★★★

'Choir of the Mind' is a return of sorts for Emily Haines, recording under her own name for the first time in ten years after an intense period with Metric and Broken Social Scene. An introspective and deeply personal consolidation of experience, it keeps the intimate pairing of voice and piano at its heart, returning to diary-like reflections between bursts of life and activity.

Despite being a record characterised by its intimacy, the standout track is lead single 'Fatal Gift', which begins as a piano-led lament to life under late capitalism (“The things you own/they own you”) before exploding in a starburst of looping beats and vocal samples. It’s the most maximalist, dance-driven thing on the record, and it’s exciting to hear the influence of Haines’ other projects – in this case, the synthpop of Metric – on her solo work. It’s also a subtle presence on opener 'Planets', as synthesised layers of Haines’ voice circle around the central melody, recalling the vocal loops of late-period Elliott Smith.

Perhaps inevitably for such a prolific artist, there are elements of 'Choir of the Mind' that are surplus to requirements – there’s a Rihanna quotation in the title track that aims for cute, but hits embarrassing, and some songs mimic greater preceding moments; Synth-inflected folk ballad 'Legend of the Wild Horse' feels aimless after the similarly meditative and much stronger 'Wounded'.

These missteps are a reasonable price to pay for the unexpectedly experimental spirit of the record, though – and overall, 'Choir of the Mind' is further evidence that Haines is a confident and always intriguing songwriter. Claire Biddles

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