First Listen: Broken Social Scene, 'Forgiveness Rock Record'
It's hard to deny the influence of Toronto's expansive independent music community. As a vital part of the last decade's Canadian rock explosion, Toronto has been an incubator for the likes of Feist, Jason Collett, Stars and Metric; in the process, it's become a part of indie-rock folklore. At its center is Broken Social Scene, which functions as the connective tissue for a sprawling array of satellite acts.
When it got started, Broken Social Scene could balloon to 15 or more people on stage, operating much like a rock 'n' roll boot camp for musicians to collaborate and cut their teeth. And while many of those side bands have found great success in the mainstream and transitioned into full-time gigs, Broken Social Scene carries on. From the beginning, the group's spiritual and musical identity has been driven by its co-founders, Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning. These days, after a pair of solo albums under the banner of "Broken Social Scene Presents," the two are getting the band back together. Their latest album is Forgiveness Rock Record, and it's Broken Social Scene's first since 2005.
This time out, the group has been pared down to a leaner, more manageable core of musicians (Drew, Canning, Charles Spearin, Andrew Whiteman, Justin Peroff and relative newcomers Lisa Lobsinger and Sam Goldberg). It also brought in John McEntire, the veteran Chicago producer and multi-instrumentalist best known for his work with Tortoise and The Sea and Cake. Both changes are felt immediately on Forgiveness Rock Record.
While there's still a cascading exuberance to Drew and Canning's work, the songs convey a tighter sense of focus and sonic consistency. From the yearning of "Sweetest Kill" to the fizzy electronics and plucky strings of "All to All" to the off-kilter loops and ambient sounds of "Ungrateful Little Father," McEntire's tasteful musical sculpting has added layered nuance which brings out the best in Drew and the various singers.
That said, there are plenty of grandly rocking moments, well suited for this summer's many outdoor festivals: The slow-building jam of "World Sick" begins with a moody electronic soundscape and a clean groove, but climaxes with blissful orchestrated cacophony. Then there's the guitar-driven fist-pumper "Forced to Love," the soaring and funky horn section of "Art House Director," and the sweet synth-pop mantra "Sentimental X's," which gives way to a rapturous chorus of female voices and swirling keyboards.
Still, it wouldn't be a Broken Social Scene album without a string of guests. The usual suspects are mostly present: Feist, Emily Haines and Amy Millan, as well as members of Do Make Say Think, Tortoise and even The Sea and Cake's Sam Prekop.
Forgiveness Rock Record will stream here in its entirety until its release on May 4. Please leave your thoughts on the album in the comments section below.
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