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Broken Social Scene is one of those bands that it seems like everyone's heard of, but no-one's actually heard. They're spoken of in hushed tones amongst the hipster crowds, like some sort of secret password that you, as a plebe, are not allowed to be privy to. It's difficult to find copies of their albums in stores around here (thank you, the internets) and, truly, more's the pity. (Apparently outside of the Utah Music Bubble they're quite big. And thank goodness for that.)
They're something of a supergroup in the indie rock scene (or perhaps better termed a musical collective) that has ranged in size drastically during its many permutations. All of the artists involved work within other groups or have solo projects, and as such Broken Social Scene is a collaborative, fusion-driven work. There is the definite influence of post-rock (from members of Do Make Say Think), folk (Feist is heavily involved), and world music (many people in the band also participate in the collective Valley of the Giants) among others. And yet despite all those disparate musical ideas, somehow Broken Social Scene make unique, vibrant songs that pulsate with the beat of an entire community.
This is still true in their newest album, Forgiveness Rock Record. There are choirs of people singing, layers upon layers of guitar, multiple percussion tracks in each piece of music, and plenty of programming and electronic work. If that sounds overwhelming, it is - a Broken Social Scene album is not something one delves into without preparing first for an aural assault of the highest quality.
All of these things come together to create memorable music. This is no more apparent than the stand-out track of the album, "Forced to Love". There's so much going on that it's worth listening to many times. From the flute to the fuzzy bass, from the four melodic guitar lines weaving in and out of each other to the driving, cymbal-heavy drum work, it's a lesson in making a wall of sound. In fact, if Canada's metal madman Devin Townsend were to ever create indie rock, I'd imagine it would sound something like this.
While the two albums released under the title "Broken Social Scene Presents:" were not quite up to the snuff of the entire band's projects (they're pseudo solo albums done by members of the collective), Forgiveness Rock Record captures everything I've loved about Broken Social Scene and renewed my faith in the band. It is their most cohesive, driven, and accessible album to date. Between this release, the new album from The National, and the rumors of new music from The Arcade Fire, 2010 is shaping up to be a banner year for indie rock.
Final verdict: Adore it
Broken Social Scene is a band worth your attention, and this is the best place to start. Everything feels fun and organic, even though it's obviously so carefully planned out and structured. This is one of those releases (and definitely one of those groups) that you do yourself a disservice to not know.