Emily Haines’ Choir of the Mind trades the cold edge of Metric’s electronic synthesizer sound for stately piano driven ballads. (Emily Haines Facebook photo)

Emily Haines’ Choir of the Mind trades the cold edge of Metric’s electronic synthesizer sound for stately piano driven ballads. (Emily Haines Facebook photo)

Street Sounds: Haunting ballads

Emily Haines’ second solo album, Choir of the Mind is heavy on piano and whispery vocals

Toronto-based singer/songwriter Emily Haines’ second solo album, Choir of the Mind, is a haunted ballad driven album, heavy on piano and whispery vocals.

The Metric front-person stretches her appeal by writing atmospheric material that comes from thoughtful sources. Choir of the Mind trades the cold edge of Metric’s electronic synthesizer sound for stately piano driven ballads. Haines moves away from her stance as a sloganeering lightning rod, finding expression as a haunted texturalist. This album stretches and expands her image and reveals a depth of sensitivity not noticed in her other group.

On Legend of the Wild Horse, she creates ancient sounds by moving from medieval folk tale verse style to a modern epic piano song. The song is chilling and unique in its seamless run of baroque arrangement and choral layering. Haines’ lyrics are often poetic but can be blunted down in favour of hard driving synthesizers and electronic beats. On Choir of the Mind, she chooses traditional (for her) themes and imagery. Wild Horse is a tale of an escaped race track horse, running off into the wild, metaphorically disguised as a drive for individuality amidst the depersonalizing crush of technological advance.

Choir of the Mind is as much a sound and song centered album as it is a vocal album. Haines’ piano playing is a presence that’s equal to her wispy vocals.

As a singer, she transmits moods more than physical display and her work on Minefield of Memory and the title song are studies in call and response and layering.

Haines’ second solo record is a sound out of time and a marked departure from her other sound and style.

–Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who reviews the latest music releases in his column, Street Sounds, every Friday.