Broken Social Scene

TrackAlbum
Almost CrimesYou Forgot It In People
Cause = TimeYou Forgot It In People
7/4 (Shoreline)Broken Social Scene
All To AllForgiveness Rock Record
Forced To LoveForgiveness Rock Record
Gonna Get BetterHug Of Thunder
Stay HappyHug Of Thunder
Protest SongHug Of Thunder
Halfway HomeHug Of Thunder
1972Let's Try The After Vol.1 EP

Broken Social Scene photo 2

Broken Social Scene 2002 members: Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, Justin Peroff, Andrew Whiteman, Charles Spearin, Jason Collett, Evan Cranley, Leslie Feist, Emily Haines

 

 

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Broken Social Scene playlist

 

Contributor: Damien Joyce

This is an introduction to Broken Social Scene, the Toronto touring ensemble that is one of Canada’s finest exports.

The origin of the band is well documented, but basically more than twenty years ago it grew out of the nucleus of a friendship between musicians Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew, who then invited others to join and this creative collective began to grow from a Toronto basement apartment. There are myriad spin-off projects; solo records, solo acts and various bands that could well be considered under this ‘mothership’, as Stuart Berman wrote in “This Book Is Broken”: Broken Social Scene exists in a state of perpetual temporariness, in a continued history comprised of passing phases.

As the band tours, bandmates come and go, with the line up being as few as 6 to as many as 19, especially when arriving in a city and musician friends, guest horn players, are invited to perform.

Feel Good Lost, their debut album from 2001, is filled with post-rock/ambient lo-fi jams and is a warm, beautiful record (Canning’s contribution to Len’s Steal My Sunshine helped pay for the recording). I’m very attached to this vinyl record and while I’m supposed to pick the top ten tracks from Broken Social Scene, I think it would be an injustice to select a single track in isolation as this piece of wax really ought to be played in its entirety, so my recommendation is to embrace this soothing record from start to finish. It stands up so well after all these years.

But back to my 10 song selections which have been chosen from across the other studio records including You Forgot It In People, the self-titled Broken Social Scene, Forgiveness Rock Record, Hug Of Thunder and Let’s Try The After Vols.1&2.

And I decided to focus on the band’s albums rather than the spin-offs, solo work or other related acts such as Feist, Ariel Engle, Stars, Metric, KC Accidental, Do Make Say Think, as Broken Social Scene really warrant their own Rock Family Tree episode!

Broken Social Scene discograph 2

From Disco/graph website, the interactive visualization of the relationships between musicians, bands and labels

 

With a push from Pitchfork with this album review, You Forgot It In People was a hugely popular second record the following year, very different from their debut.

A couple of tracks I picked off You Forgot It In People were the rockier Almost Crimes mainly because of Leslie Feist’s contrasting vocals and the memorable Cause = Time, ahead of their classic, slower Lover’s Spit ballad.

From their self-titled record in 2005, 7/4 (Shoreline) remains my all-time favourite track of theirs, right from the opening chords and when the drums kick in, with Feist’s amazing vocals and the crescendo, pulling in the horns towards the finish.

While you’re walking away
I will try to get through
But you’ve got to know the lies
From the lies they told you
If you try to do it all
It all will leave you
If you try to steal the beat
The beat will steal you

Here’s a great example of one their best, chaotic performances of 7/4 Shoreline when they appeared on Conan O’Brien:

 

After a break for a couple of solo albums (from both Drew and Canning), the band returned with their indie rock release, Forgiveness Rock Record, in 2010 which they described as a more outlooking record, with close to 30 people in the studio. From this record, I picked All To All and Forced To Love, tracks that are both regulars on their live set list also. Other tracks to note include Sentimental X’s, Meet Me In The Basement – I struggled to squeeze these into the playlist, however.

It was after another extended hiatus – seven years this time – that thankfully saw the band come together to release the excellent Hug Of Thunder in 2017; and the album is meant to be about getting through the storm, noise and injustice in the world and embracing the inner struggle. (Drew has been very forthcoming in interviews and whilst on stage, to express his concerns and anxiety about this modern social age of constant distraction.)

Feist coined the album title and added lead vocals for the first time since 2006, and Emily Haines also returned for the excellent Protest Song, a raucous number when played live. It also brought another addition in female vocals with Ariel Engle who demonstrated her value on the uplifting Gonna Get Better.

Stay Happy and the triumphant Halfway Home are the other tracks I added to the playlist from Hug Of Thunder.

This performance of Halfway Home from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert was a very special rendition and reunion of friends and may provide a glimpse into the live mayhem that ensues when the band are at full compliment.

And my final choice is from the EP set, Let’s Try The After Vol.1 & Vol.2, where Ariel Engle is particularly delightful on the maudlin 1972.

While Broken Social Scene are a wild collaboration, the contrasting vocals supplied by Feist, Engle, Haines, or Amy Millan, along with Drew and Canning, make for great harmonies along with big chords, drums, and some well-placed brass.

It can be both a blessing and a curse with so many different band members as to leaving room for a regular release or touring schedule, but they have managed to stay the course and produce many fine anthems, and I guess what you might call ballads, over the last two decades.

Broken Social Scene is all about bringing people together whether live or from the turntable. They offer respite and hope for the future and I would highly recommend catching them play live!

I hope the attached playlist provides a proper introduction, enjoy.

 

 

 

Broken Social Scene photo 1

Broken Social Scene – photo Norman Wong 2017

 

Broken Social Scene official website

“This Book Is Broken: The Broken Social Scene Story”
Stuart Berman (House of Anansi Press 2009)

Broken Social Scene lyrics
(from the Always On The Run website)

Broken Social Scene (Wikipedia)

Broken Social Scene biography (AllMusic)

Damien Joyce can be found on Twitter @damienjoyce and on his blog.

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