Given how the various members of Toronto's "musical collective" Broken Social Scene have gone on to their own success, Jimmy Shaw & Emily Haines of Metric and Feist perhaps the two best examples, and the pair of "BSS Presents" solo albums by co-founders Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, it was not unreasonable to be in doubt of the future of the group. But after "slimming down" to a core nine members, the group feels more like a band, and less like a loose gathering of musicians. There are still guest stars galore -- there are 30-something credited musicians on the album -- but most just pop in for a song or two, including BSS alumni Feist, Haines, Amy Millan, Jason Collett, members from The Sea & Cake, Pavement and many more. But will the new, streamlined lineup provide the same magic that previous albums hit?
Forgiveness Rock Record starts as the almost seven minute long "World Sick" slowly creeps in, before swelling to grandiose proportions. The sprawling song is reminiscent of their previous work, but once the frantic and frenzied "Chase Scene" kicks in, you know the album is going to be their most diverse yet. The topical "Texico Bitches" is an effortless song, and "Forced To Love" is a more straight ahead rocker, featuring Sebastien Grainger. Those gives way to the more electronic-y "All To All", the first song to showcase the vocals of relative newcomer Lisa Lobsinger, who proves she is right up there with the rest of BSS's talented female vocalists. The horn-laden "Art House Director" is another high energy rocker, where the influence of Apostle of Hustle's Andrew Whiteman shines through.
"Highway Slipper Jam" slows things down with a more chill, loose, acoustic-y vibe to it, and the lo-fi and twitchy "Ungrateful Little Father", crawls to a dreamy ending. But then the energy is right back up with the epic "Meet Me In the Basement", an absolutely intense instrumental battle of guitars and horns that leaves you drained at the end. Which is probably best to be followed by "Sentimental X's", which starts a little more subdued, but then builds to a grand climax. It also, if I am not mistaken, marks the first time Feist, Haines and Millan have sung on the same song.
The sexy bass line of "Sweetest Kill" belies some of the darkest lyrics on the album, which seem to have a focus on romance, abandonment and death, as "Romance To the Grave" also does a good job of showcasing. After a few slower tracks, "Water In Hell" brings the energy back up with another great cacophonous rock song. The album ends with a kind of strange song, "Me and My Hand", which sounds like it's a one-take screwing-around song that should be a hidden track rather than the closer.
In the end, the album manages to be their most eclectic, yet most accessible. It is less sprawling, and while at first it may seem a bit too focused, the more you listen to it, and peel back the layers, the more you see new elements you missed the first, second, or even fifth times. Is it their best yet? No, probably not, but that is only a testament to how brilliant their previous albums are. But it is definitely their most engaging, and absolutely worthy of being short listed for a Polaris Prize.
Download Chase Scene
Download All to All
Download Meet Me In The Basement