Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton “Choirs of the Mind” (Last Gang Records Inc, 2017)

After nearly a decade, Metric’s powerhouse front woman Emily Haines has released another solo project as Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton, and EH & TSS fans collectively breathed a quiet but passionate fist pump this past September when Choirs of the Mind hit our ears. Her signature solo sound is like an old friend, and the album doesn’t disappoint for those looking for the nostalgic 2006  “Knives Don’t Have Your Back” vibe. While a little more refined, Haines’ velvety-soft vocals, haunting 9-foot grand piano from the 1850’s and wounded-but-wise lyricism deliver the same melancholy magic on this 13 track album.

We love the classic EH &TSS sound of simple stripped down, lace-like voice and piano, but we also love the new direction she took of a more vocally-charged and thicker sound on this release. Sonically interesting and more texturized, tracks like the album openers “Planets” with choir-like harmonies and “Fatal Gift” with driving synths and repetitive lines–“you own it and it owns you”, she draws the listener in. We also really enjoyed the variety of sounds shown on this album. From a sassy Bossa Nova on “Statuette” to an easy-going waltz on “Minefield of Memory“, we were pleasantly surprised by the wide range of styles on this beautifully-packaged piece of work. It displays Haines’ writing prowess and maturity as a solo artist so simply.

Lyricism is always a prevalent feature on EM & TSS albums, and Choir of the Mind is no exception. She uses the title track “Choir of the Mind” to showcase spoken word adapted from a poem by the Indian mystic Sri Aurobindo, and uses a ‘call and response’ type platform to keep the repetitiveness interesting. As a melody-loving rhythm seeking listener, this track (at first) was difficult to stay with. But she uses really poignant phrases like “She shuts eternity into an hour” and the beautiful “the unfinished creation of a changing soul, in a body changing with the inhabitant”, and ends the track with a flippant “That’s it!”. All in all, something we were intrigued and delighted by.


She innocently drops truth bombs all over this album, meant to provoke thought and question the very throws of our society– “Statuette” being a prime example. She mentions this in her recent interview on emilyhaines.com: “I think it’s stupid the way we reward vanity and greed, the way we crown famous people, perpetuate the same old social hierarchies. I tried to convey this on “Statuette”, how our arts and culture are really based around this idolatry of specialness”. The line in the song “…what we have in common is so easy to find. We’re wound around each other like wires in bombs” –drives it home for us, every time.

Emily Haines1

The album is intentional and wonderfully calculated, right down to the album artwork by Toronto artist Justin Broadbent, who has done work for Metric before. At first, Haines’ stark beauty and odd-choice of attire grabs the eye, but upon listening to the album, you realize how connected the glittery blue dress, bright orange gloves and baseball bat really are. Even a small detail that might go unnoticed like the (possibly fake?) parental advisory sign, which is usually located on the bottom right or left of the artwork is smack in the middle of her dress and we’ve only heard two quiet swears so far… but I guess we could be reaching there…that is art right? To cause us to question? Cheeky!

Other Broken Chord faves on this album include: “Wounded” with echoes creating a mysterious and enticing rhythm, “Legend of the Wild Horse” swirling and soft. “Sirens” has a hushed sadness with a hint of regret, and sleepy tracks “Nihilist Abyss“, “Strangle all the Romance” and “Irish Exit” make up a stunning list of artistry. The book-end album closer “RIP” ends the album like it begins–stacked choir-like vocals and then added a delicious mopey electric guitar.

We adore this release, and find it to be a perfect compliment to the dozy fall days and wild world change happening so far this year.

Buy Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton‘s Choir of the Mind here, along with older releases “What is Free to a Good Home?” and “Knives Don’t Have Your Back“.






New EP Release: Chris Tidd

Taking a moment to promote one of our own writers here at The Broken Chord upon the release of his self-titled, debut EP ! The four tracks are raw, intense and driven, with ribbons of electronica, pop & alt rock weaved throughout. The stacked and layered guitars perfectly balance the strong edgy vocals and bright and shimmery synths. We love the hints of Muse, MUTEMATH, Thrice, Biffy Clyro & Jack Garrett-y goodness that are clear influences in Chris’ writing.

The Broken Chord’s top pick for that glorious ‘spring windows down’ listening goes to this stellar EP !

Listen & Buy Here.



London Grammar “Rooting For You” (Ministry of Sound/Metal & Dust Recordings, 2017)

Let the goosebumps rise, and give into the unearthly, unwavering feelings of cathedral-like space when hitting play on this stunning track from London Grammar. We’ve been waiting a long time at The Broken Chord for new work from this British trio, and the wait was worth every second of this short 4-minute single “Rooting For You”.

Vocalist Hannah Reid, Guitarist Dan Rothman and Keyboardist/Drummer Dominic “Dot” Major truly deliver something special to the electro/dream pop scene. Their classic sound being low & blanketing strings mixed with stable beats, bright shimmery guitars, reverb-laced vocals and an utterly enveloping synth-pad. Stirring, to say the least.

London Grammar-S.jpg

Reid, the group’s vocalist, has a distinct and cutting voice…a sweet mélange of Annie Lennox & Florence Welch, of which many of have made similar comparisons.  Her tones, melodies and dancing lines are smooth-as-butter, and aged beyond her years. We have likened this track’s vocals to walking through a misty fog in a cedar forest…magical and strong.

This particular song features an incredible amount of range that lay hidden in her voice until now, with the unmistakable melody line “It is only you, you are the only thing I’ve ever truly known…and my darlin’, I’ll be rooting for you”

London Grammar fans are anxiously and almost painfully awaiting word on the next full-length album…but with this little slice of Heaven told grasp onto in the meantime, we can hold our breath a little longer.


To purchase “Metal & Dust: EP” or “If You Wait” + Remix Album, find on iTunes.


The Rise of the EP: XXIX-Wafia/ODE-JOY./Vallis Alps-Vallis Alps

Australia seems to be delivering some of the brightest and newest stars in the sky of electronic music, and the rest of the planet is very, very happy about it. 2015 saw some incredible EPs released onto the scene, of which we at The Broken Chord have discovered some stellar artists such as: Wafia, JOY. and Vallis Alps. There’s nothing quite like spending time browsing the “other artists you might like” section on iTunes…am I right?

Because we love all three EPs equally, we decided to do our first ever triple album review to kick off some of your new summer music listening.

  1. Wafia “XIXX-EP” (Future Classic, 2015)

Shadowed, veiled, mysterious and reserved–just some of the tones that come through on Brisbane-based Wafia Al-Rikabi’s work on XIXX. The album title stands for the Roman numeral ’29’-referring to the atomic number for Copper, a metal always in a state of change.

The EP begins with a beautifully sombre piano-only prelude, only allowing vocals to woefully enter near the end. This sets the ghostly tone for the whole EP, and does it seamlessly. Deep synths and clean cut beats give way on “The Raid”, the popular release “Heartburn” and the brooding track “Untitled”, full of longing. Each track is a multi-layered feast of eccentric sounds and instruments, altogether captivating.  The final track on the EP “Fading Through” features fellow Aussie artist Vancouver Sleep Clinic, who has an uncanny vocal resemblance to the haunting Bon Iver (and we aren’t complaining). “I climb onto rooftops, to catch a glimpse of the moon, a fading trail of you” “Oh we’re fading through…nothing left to do, can’t you see if was all for you?” A poignant and sad track that leaves the listeners wishing the EP was a full-length album. We can’t wait for what’s next.

New works to look for: “Meet in the Middle” a track with with label partner artist Ta-ku on a new EP releasing late-June called: “(m)edian”.


2. JOY. “ODE-EP” (Sony Music Entertainment Australia Pty Ltd, 2015)

Brisbane-born Olivia McCarthy, now Sydney-based artist JOY, has set the bar high for emerging female artists in the electronic scene (oh yeah, and did we mention she’s only 18 years old?). Her entirely self-produced EP “ODE” is fully mesmerizing, clean and smooth.

The opening track “Falling” invites the listener to wander around the dark and mournful world of the EP with contemplative lyrics and heavy bass synths. “I keep on falling–in and out of love with you. I know you’ll keep on calling, I hate the ghost you’ve turned me into”. She then ushers in the breathy vocals on “About Us” with poignantly placed harmonies that cut through us like a knife. The synth heavy “Crazy for You” is a true delight for the ears, with layers upon layers of well-executed electronic magic. The EP finishes strong with “Heads or Tails”, full of a sombre presence, well-placed guitar swells and a clean/simple beat: “You confused me from the start, then you left me all alone in the dark…when you turn to say goodnight, do you miss me by your side? Do you love me?”

We’re excitedly anticipating the next works from JOY, but have this EP on repeat in the meantime.


3. Vallis Alps “Vallis Alps-EP” (Vallis Alps, 2015)

Hailing from Canberra and Seattle (cleverly called ‘Ameristralia’ on a triple-j unearthed interview), this duo (David & Parissa) brings a dreamy and  almost child-like innocence to the electro-pop scene. Their self-titled EP has a bright sound, but has a lingering sadness just below the surface, peeking through in the lyrics.

The EP begins with their well-known track “Young”, which has a simple and soft melody with consistent and comforting beats and well-paired guitar licks to give a smooth base for the lyrics to play out upon: “weeks went by but felt like hours”, “in the end, time forever favours the young…”. Continuing on with the track “Thru”, those buttery smooth synths and vocals guide the listener through, with playful instrumental lines taking the stage in the latter half of the song. “Oh!” is one of the more upbeat tracks on the EP, acoustic guitar driven and sunny. The final track, “Reprieve” starts with a very classic feel, sad-soaked melody lines/vocals from Parissa’s haunting voice and lyrics that present a justifiable heartache. The middle of the track sees a small lift with well-constructed synth layers that carry the song through to the end: “Just let these tunnels cave, just let this fire fade–maybe the sky’ll break. We’re just a lie away from proving to ourselves we’re not afraid”, “We’re suddenly fate’s latest casualty”.

Absolutely thrilled to hear more from this duo in the future, and happy to see that they’re out spreading the live music love on tour in Straya this summer.



All we can say is, come to Canada soon ! Listening to all three of these EPs on repeat all summer long.

Buy Wafia’s EP here, JOY’s here & Vallis Alps’ here.




Daughter “Not to Disappear” (Glassnote Entertainment Group, 2016)

Perfectly painful, acutely sombre and emotionally intelligent– just a few ways to describe the second full-length album from London-based Daughter, “Not to Disappear”.

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 4.05.17 PM

Elena Tonra (vocals, guitars) pulls the listeners in with her melancholic melodies, sparking them aflame with an edge of bitterness and angst. Igor Haefeli (guitars) supports Tonra’s gripping sadness with well-crafted and poignant accents on guitar, and Remi Aguilella (drums) is a strong and steady base, on which the entire story of “Not to Disappear” plays out effortlessly.

Stand-out tracks include: “Numbers”, “Doing the Right Thing”, “Mothers”, “Alone/With You” & “No Care”.

The debut single “Doing the Right Thing” reveals the grim struggle of Tonra’s grandmother dealing with Alzheimers. The song sounds like a slow burn; a controlled, yet swirling and damaging storm. Poignant and stark, the harsh realities of the disease are played out for all to feel: “When it’s dark, I’ll call out in the night for my mother, but she isn’t coming back–cause she’s already gone” ” But you will not tell me that, cause you know it hurts me, and you know you are doing the right thing…”

“Mothers” begins with dripping child-like riffs and melody lines, and once again Tonra’s sad-soaked tones are perfectly paired with a vocal reverb that acts as an echo of the pain.  The mixing on this track is beautifully done–brilliant pans and tones that float all around the listener, enveloping their senses and drenching them in sound. “I’ll stay here, the provider or that constant sting they call love”, a beautiful lyrical capture of preserved pain, like an old wound that never fully healed.

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 4.05.38 PM

The second last track “Fossa” is a well-crafted song, which interjects fast paced choruses into half-time feels and the circling reverb patterns in the breathy vocal lines are hauntingly piercing. And although the song is lengthy and one of the meatier tracks on the album, the heavy instrumental end portion of the song is refreshing and slightly Sigur Rós like (which is always a welcome influence).

All in all, this three-piece from London has a lot of craft to offer the alt-indie pop scene. They infuse a very stark maturity and seriousness into their work, which stands out like a weathered, but sturdy dock in the wavy sea of similar sounding indie pop acts of today. This second album sounds older and wiser, like they’ve learned from their previous painful experiences. Sophisticated and yet very simple, the layers and complexities that are offered to the listener on this album preserve the essence of all that is Daughter. We suggest turning this album on during rainy days, sad seasons and anytime your heart feels heavy. Keep the kleenex close by.

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 4.06.07 PM


Buy “Not to Disappear” on iTunes and on ohdaughter.com


MUTEMATH “Vitals” (Wojtek Records, 2015)

Infectious, soaring, hopeful and inspiring, MUTEMATH’s self-produced 4th studio album “Vitals” packs a mighty electro-punch, but also brings forward feelings of longing and softness.

It’s not every day a band is able to juggle so many emotional spheres within such simple and perfected writing, but MUTEMATH’s writing and musical capacity make them truly a diamond in the rough in today’s alt-pop scene.

Formed in 2003, hailing from New Orleans, MUTEMATH is now Paul Meaney (vocals, keys), Darren King (drums), Roy Mitchell-Cárdenas (bass) & Todd Gummerman (guitars)–although not one member is tied down to his instrument–they all play a little of everything, contributing to the band’s overall strength and writing prowess.


“Vitals” is a superb synth-focused, electronica-pop masterpiece, filled with stand-out, radio-friendly & instrumental-only tracks: a true mélange of high calibre musical ideas with sophisticated execution. Their debut singles: “Monument” & “Used To” are both catchy and singable, guaranteed to sound amazing on full-volume.  Meaney’s vocals are confident on this album, soaring and cutting above the many layers supporting the individual tracks on “Joy Rides”, “Stratosphere” and “Best of Intentions”— and on “All I see”, “Composed” and “Remain” draping the lyrics in warmth and humanity.

Instrumental-only “Vitals” (title track) and the undeniably badass “Bulletproof” only further solidify this band’s talent: each electronic blip, delay, echo, drum beat, keyboard melody and manipulation is hand-crafted and constructed by them. Again, a rarity amongst today’s pre-made and fabricated electronic music…which only leaves me with the question: why isn’t this group of musicians known the world over?? Although they are known for their tenacity and creativity with music videos and wildly physical live performances, this band is huge within a smaller niche-market…what will it take for them to break out onto the next level of popularity? It would be a well-deserved achievement, to say the least.


Long-time listeners looking for that signature MUTEMATH sound will be pleased with the array of new writing featured on “Vitals”, once again challenged with complex melodies & rhythms and comforted by simple and succulent lyricism.

All in all, if we at The Broken Chord can do anything to promote solid musicians (such as these guys) who work with everything they have emotionally and physically–we will sleep with full hearts at night.



Buy “Vitals” on iTunes and mutemath.com


Florence & The Machine “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” (Island Records, 2015)

Powerhouse vocals wrapped in emotion, explosive and dangerous, yet pained and fragile–Florence Welch has set the bar high for female artists since her arrival on the scene in 2007, and continues to do so well into 2015 with the release of “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful”. She has the kind of stage presence that any female front-woman envies: powerful and in command, but graceful and mysterious– full of magic & electricity. florence and the machine

While this album doesn’t seem to feature the same reckless abandon and raw emotion that is shown on 2008’s well-crafted “Lungs”, and the strong follow-up release of “Ceremonials” in 2011, her famous whipping, soaring vocals come through in very sporadic and fleeting moments throughout this most recent album. The overall tone of the writing often feels like its foundations are too weak to hold her vocals and emotion properly, often resulting in lacklustre delivery. Although, this could be a reflection of a more refined, older & wiser Florence, a little more subdued and a little more comfortable.

Radio-friendly pop writing and catchy melodies heard on “Third Eye”, “Ship to Wreck” & “Hiding” unfortunately sound like filler standing next to the stronger, bolder tracks on the album, that feature that classic ‘Flo’ sound– “What Kind of Man”, “Various Storms & Saints” & “Mother”. Florence & The Machine has a huge presence in the festival scene, and will benefit greatly from these infectious tunes, offering so much for the crowds to grasp onto.


All in all, this album will bring Florence & The Machine to a much more accessible level for many listeners, but perhaps the radio-friendly ‘cage’ isn’t the best place for a voice and talent of this wild nature; it should be free to roam every emotional & creative plane it desires…



Biffy Clyro “Similarities” (14th Floor Records, 2014)

Scotland has produced many a talented artist, but none compare to the aggressively artistic rock band Biffy Clyro. Together since 1995, this trio has been making seriously good music, both on the stage and in the studio. With 10 studio recordings (6 albums & 4 B-Side compilation albums), several other singles, and 2 live recordings under their belts, this band is no stranger to releasing strong material. With soaring and anthemic vocals/guitar by lead singer Simone Neil, coupled with the steady and strong bass & drums by twin brothers James & Ben Johnston, these three know how to leave fans feeling like they’ve been hit by a tornado, minus the total destruction: emotionally & musically wind-whipped but fully determined and inspired to carry on with more fervour than ever.Biffy-Clyro

“Similarities” was released in July of 2014, a collection of B-sides off the back of their incredibly strong double album “Opposites”, released in 2013. Along with their most recent compilations, they have released “Lonely Revolutions” in 2010 after the solid “Only Revolutions” in November 2009, as well as “Missing Pieces” in April 2009 , after their release into mainstream with “Puzzle” in 2007. The fact that albums as strong as these are b-side tracks that didn’t quite make the cut, only proves the writing ferocity of this band.

With a very ‘live-show’ presence throughout “Similarities”, listeners will feel like they’re at one of their live performances, watching the band run around shirtless, covered in tattoos, pouring their very souls into the music. This is not an easy sound for bands to replicate off the stage, but Biffy Clyro has this down to a science, and it works very, very well. 20937

Stand-out tracks include: “The Rain“, which gently lours the listeners in before dissipating all of their expectations on the next track “Thundermonster“, which shows off their signature well-crafted and executed mix of stacked guitars that Neil & Johnston have perfected. “Milky” & “Finger hut” showcase the band’s ability to weave in complex rhythms within catchy riffs that the average listener will enjoy, but the avid rhythm seeker will adore.  “A Tragic World Record” & “Fingers & Toes” highlight infectious pop melodies, dripping with that unmistakeable guitar overdrive & solid rhythm section, along with Neil’s soaring, piercing vocals. The tone of his voice cuts through the heavy nature of their sound, and compliments the overall sound perfectly. There’s nothing quite like Neil’s thick Scottish accent–and it certainly gives them a uniqueness that sets them apart from other alternative bands on the scene.


Fans are anticipating a new album release sometime later in 2015, and with writing as strong as their last two albums & paired compilations, they won’t be disappointed. Mon the Biff !

Upcoming Shows

A few more shows to keep your April & May days springy & fun:

Dustin Kenrue: April 23rd @ The Opera House in Toronto, ON

Great Lake Swimmers: April 23rd & 24th @ Bathurst Street Theatre (now Randolph Theatre) in Toronto, ON

Xavier Rudd & The United Nations: May 6th @ The Opera House in Toronto, ON

Death Cab for Cutie: May 7th @ The Sony Centre in Toronto, ON

Diana Krall: May 22nd & 23rd @ Massey Hall in Toronto, ON

Bobby McFerrin: May 30th @ Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, ON

Cheers to seeing live music, friends!


Sufjan Stevens “Carrie & Lowell” (Asthmatic Kitty Records, 2015)

Love, loss, questioning and reconciliation are just some of the feelings exuded on Sufjan Stevens’ 7th studio album: “Carrie & Lowell“, named after his mother & stepfather. On this album, Stevens uses his songwriting as a way to deal with, and further come to peace with, his mother Carrie’s death in December 2012. A very human and vulnerable state is presented in these songs in comparison to his last release “Age of Adz” in 2010.  As opposed to large-scale electronics and powerful mythical ideals as featured in “Age of Adz”, the release of “Carrie & Lowell” is quite stark & simplistic in contrast.

In the February 2015 interview presented by Pitchfork: “True Myth: A Conversation with Sufjan Stevens”, interviewer Ryan Dombal is able to shed some light on the somewhat folklore-esque life of the singer/songwriter, and allows fans to gain a deeper understanding for the power of this album, and the nature in which it was written. His relationship with his mother is a very important part of this work, and is the centre from which everything stems: a sense of abandonment, loss and pursuit of meaning.sufjan1440x8102

Musically speaking, we hear a much more subdued and resonating quality through the instrumentation, but also very calculated and supportive of the lyrics–which is a huge feature throughout the album. The listener is presented with little more than acoustic guitar, banjo, a few synths/wurlitzers and poignant piano, but the lyrics need nothing else. Stirring and arpeggiated guitars provide a comforting and repetitive backdrop to the story telling, like a blanket, to help the listener cope with the pain they feel coming through Stevens’ lyrics.

The album begins with “Death with Dignity“, a haunting and powerful track that sets the ‘storytelling’ tone of the album. Reminiscent of one of his earlier works, “Seven Swans” released in 2004, we hear highlighted piano tracks mixed in with the moving and hopeful acoustic guitar, a classic Sufjan Stevens sound. It is comforting at first listen, and ends with a very David Crosby-like cloud of vocals and slide guitar.

Eugene” paints a simple, memory-filled picture of his life and relationship with his mother. Reflective, nostalgic and sad, he sings: “I just wanted to be near you”. On “Fourth of July“, a stand out track, Stevens’ songwriting ushers listeners to feel captivated by the mystery and openness of death. His child-like abandon and poignancy within the lyrics is a trademark of his sound. “We’re all going to die”, which is a lyric repeated several times in this song, features that trademark: unapologetic and to the point, yet soft and peaceful.

The latter half of the album continues to leave heavy, but seemingly light emotions on the listeners’ hearts, embodied in the tracks “Carrie & Lowell“, “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross” and “Blue Bucket of Gold” which is the last track on the album. The longing and questioning nature of Stevens’ work is captured so beautifully in the lyric: “Raise your right hand, tell me you want me in your life, or raise your red flag–just when I want you in my life”. Listeners are left feeling like part of Stevens’ family, having gone through so many of these vulnerable states with him throughout the album.

Overall, this is some of 39-year-old Stevens’ best and most inviting work. Captivating, bare, weighted and human, listeners can expect to release a heavy sigh after listening to the album front to back, and want to press repeat over and over.



Buy this album March 31st, 2015 on iTunes or from Asthmatic Kitty.