In Toronto, if you're not in Broken Social Scene, you're aching to get in. A total of 17 members are credited for their latest release, an eponymous follow-up to 2003's critically acclaimed You Forgot It In People. While individual projects within the band such as Stars, Feist, and Metric have achieved success in the indie realm, the combined output amounts to a blissful musical orgasm that you could never expect, even from a group with that much talent.
What separates this Canadian collective from supergroups like the New Pornographers is a well developed willingness to experiment. Instead of settling for a solid pop song with a great hook, they give us that but much more, incorporating rich atmospheric textures and interweaving melodies. Take "Bandwitch" for example: Kevin Drew's lazy drawl skims the surface of an intricate instrumental blend, highlighted by Emily Haines' soft repetitive utterances. And while the album may play the artsy game at times, there are still many moments of accessible rock. "Swimmers" flaunts Haines' soothing alto above a wicked beat and bass line, exuding casual sensuality with each saccharine verse. Only Haines could pull off: "I was waitin' for you / I was standin' around / I was gettin' older." And she does it with wistful grace.
It's hard to find fault with any of the 14 tracks. Just the sheer diversity between each composition is enough to keep cynical hipsters at bay. "Handjobs for the Holidays" grooves along with a twangy guitar and an infectious trumpet refrain. "7/4 (Shoreline)" gives Leslie Feist a chance to strut her pop sensibilities amidst a boisterous, vibrant theme. Concluding the record, "It's All Gonna Break" fluctuates in tempo ever so teasingly, offering up an intense, choir-like vocal harmonization, and let's not overlook that self-congratulatory military march at the end.
Clearly, Broken Social Scene knows they're all that. And while some slight pretentiousness may linger over this album, it's nearly impossible to criticize their musicianship -- or their ability to create a few catchy tunes, for that matter. Subdued or energetic, complex or straightforward, the cohesiveness of these songs rewards the discerning, patient listener. With 17 people, how could you go wrong?