It may have been 5 years since we’ve had a new album from Toronto’s Broken Social Scene, but a lot has happened in the interim. There have been two entries in the “Broken Social Scene Presents…” series of solo albums from Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, not to mention releases from the various members’ satellite projects. Last year, This Book is Broken outlined the origin and rise of the collective, while this year will find a release of Bruce McDonald’s This Movie is Broken; not so much a music-documentary as much as it is a film with the band’s performance at the Harbourfront Centre serving as the setting and soundtrack.
Forgiveness Rock Record opens with “World Sick”, a song that picks up precisely where their last album left off: big, multilayered guitars, strong drums and an anthemic chorus. This is an opener that proudly asserts their return. From here, the album takes on a strikingly more streamlined and focused direction. This can be attributed to two factors: the paring down of members to a “core” group of six for the main bulk of songwriting and the switch from producer David Newfeld to Tortoise/ Sea of Cake’s John McEntire. Songs like “Texico Bitches” and “Highway Slipper Jam” seemingly have more room for their instrumentation and vocals to breathe, the latter of which could seamlessly find a home with the songs on You Forgot it in People; Even the triumphant, building instrumental “Meet Me in the Basement” feels more straightforward and determined even with its grand wall of sound.
While a core six may have done the songwriting, the expected friends do show up to help shape the outcome of the songs. “Sentimental X’s” finds Emily Haines, Feist and Amy Milan sharing vocal duties together. While having toured with the band for the past five years, Lisa Lobsinger finally makes an appearance on album, taking lead vocals on “All to All” and providing other ethereal harmonies throughout the other songs. Metric’s Jimmy Shaw, Julie Penner and Ohad Benchetrit from Do Make Say Think and Stars’ Evan Cranley all add to the varied and textured instrumentation. The standout track on this album is certainly “Sweetest Kill”, a five-minute slow burner full of forlorn melodies and moody vocals that perfectly exemplifies the band’s ability to sonically mirror the sentiment of the song.
The album does seem to hit a big of a snag with the placement of its last few tracks. “Romance to the Grave” builds into a song too breezy for such an ambient intro, and “Water in Hell” is a joyful party track with some of the album’s weakest lyrics. All is forgiven with that one though, due to Sebastien Grainger’s Prince-esque backing vocals.
Forgiveness Rock Record is definitely a Broken Social Scene album in terms of the variety of songs that inhabit it, with the band using less clutter to project their anthems. It was worth the wait.
Top Tracks: “Sweetest Kill”; “Meet Me in the Basement”; “Sweetest X’s”; “Forced to Love”
4 Hoots (out of 4) + *swoop*