The crash course: Picking up this Broken Social Scene

Just one of the many configurations of Broken Social Scene.

Today is Canada Day, marking the day in 1867 when three British colonies in North America united under one name: Canada. Oh, Canada, home to much more indie acts than one can shake a stick at, to the point where you’d hear a band and like it and be surprised that it’s from north of that border. For today, we take a look at one Canadian band and its connections to many other acts representing the country (and particularly Toronto) in recent years: Broken Social Scene. I swear, it’s pretty much a smorgasbord. But I must note, again: this is, by no means, exhaustive. No, far from it. [NB]


“Is And Of The” by KC Accidental | KC Accidental is a post-rock band formed by Kevin Drew and Charles Spearin. The duo only released two mostly instrumental albums, both of which are essentially two parts of a whole: 1998’s Captured Anthems for an Empty Bathtub, and 2000’s Anthems for the Could’ve Been Pills. That second album featured appearances from, among others, Jessica Moss (from Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra), Evan Cranley (from Stars) and Emily Haines (from Metric). Those three, and a score of others, would later appear in Broken Social Scene albums, starting with their similarly ambient debut, 2001’s Feel Good Lost.


“Chinatown” by Do Make Say Think | Broken Social Scene being a who’s who of the Toronto indie scene came out of necessity: with their material then being mostly instrumental, they needed a more entertaining show to stage, so Kevin Drew and Bernard Canning took their other collaborators on board. One of these collaborators is Ohad Benchetrit, a multi-instrumentalist best known for his work on the post-rock band Do Say Make Think. (Charles Spearin is also a member of that band.) They’ve been around since 1995 and have released seven LPs and one EP. This track, from their 2002 release & Yet & Yet, appeared in the George Clooney flick Syriana, which I watched in an attempt to be more serious in my film viewing.


“Ageless Beauty” by Stars | Three Stars members made their way to Broken Social Scene at one point or another. Evan Cranley joined from the first album, Amy Millan began touring for the band around the same time, and Torquil Campbell was on board for the supergroup’s third, eponymous album. This was around the same time the band left their post-rock roots and went for a more indie pop (yet experimental) sound: this was all thanks to producer David Newfeld, who worked on the group’s two middle records. With most of Toronto’s indie scene in tow, a change in sound was inevitable, although Broken Social Scene did return to their roots with their 2010 release Forgiveness Rock Record. Different producer in tow for that one.


“An Anniversary Away” by Reverie Sound Revue | Not all of Broken Social Scene’s members have toured with the band, because everybody has everything else on the side, too. So, not all members have recorded for the band, like Lisa Lobsinger, who does vocals for the band’s concerts, but is otherwise known as the vocalist of Calgary-based band Reverie Sound Revue. They’re not widely known outside Canada, which is a surprise, considering how their songs very much fits the Scandinavian indie pop mold, like this one. The band was formed in 2002 but has only released one EP (in 2003) and one full-length (six years later). The lack of activity in the band is in part because, like Broken Social Scene, everybody’s got everything else on the side.


“One Evening” by Feist | Of course, I have to mention Feist. She is, perhaps, the best known of all of Broken Social Scene’s members, with a successful solo career. In a past life she was the vocalist of a punk rock band, Placebo; she met Brendan Canning when their bands performed on the same concert. She toured with the band from 2002, rotating with Emily Haines and Amy Millan – the three would appear together in the Forgiveness Rock Record track “Sentimental X’s”. But her poppy influence manifests itself best on Broken Social Scene, home to one of my favorite songs ever, “7/4 (Shoreline)”. I would list it here, but I’ve already written about it, so…


“Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Day)” by Broken Social Scene | …here’s a song from the same album. Broken Social Scene’s unique in that its sound is pretty much where its members’ heads are at a given time. The origins are decidedly post-rock, but has later moved towards some semblance of baroque pop, with intricate instrumentation and, at least from their second album onward, a knack for a pop hit. (“Forced To Love”, from their back-to-roots latest record, still has a sense of chaos in it.) If there’s one band that best represents what Canada has to offer, never mind the fact that it’s really mostly a Toronto thing, then Broken Social Scene is the best place to start. Good on you, Canada, for having such a brilliant, underrated scene.


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