It’s hard to get to know a band like Broken Social Scene. With a revolving cast of players both on and off the stage, each of the previous records seem to be a snapshot of the imperfect and slightly chaotic times they’ve experienced. It’s been five years now since the collective has released a record, but with a band that’s constantly changing, it’s not so hard to see how time could slip by. Now on their long-awaited fourth record, something has changed, the quiet chaos of the past has subsided a bit, creating an order that’s given us their most concise effort to date. Now down to a core of six members, Broken Social Scene’s Forgiveness Rock Record is everything you would want: expansive, positive, a little dramatic, and always interesting at every turn. All the staples of their best work come out in full form, leaving you with nothing to pass over and another amazing record for this year.
Internal changes aside, the music has retained a level of consistency that has become the band’s signature. Even when experimenting on songs that make it hard to see the forest beyond the trees, they are still undoubtedly BSS. On their best work, though, they created timeless post-rock anthems filled with rich textures made up of simple but inescapable layers. Recorded in a way that’s in limbo between a big studio and a home computer, the songs sound crisp while remaining deeply intimate. Forgiveness takes that intimacy one step further, focusing more on accessibility than wondering experimentation. With a tighter group now involved, it seems the songs have taken that shape as well.
Every one of the 14 tracks is a stand out. Even with some of the quietest, “Highway Slipper Jam” and the biting “Ungrateful Little Father”, every little element pops. The dark and suspenseful “Chase Scene” runs you through heavy fuzzed synths with duel vocals reining in horns and driving rhythm. The fun “Texico Bitches” is classic BSS, just cleaner, going back to that same consistency that’s hard to shake. Big horn sections make up the gypsy jazz of “Art House Director” and the over-the-top wall of sound build up of instrumental “Meet Me in the Basement” for more classic moments that you’ll want to keep coming back to.
One of the best, “Water in Hell”, is the hopeful alt rock jam session coming full circle with a charging 90’s group finish as they show you there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. With this band though, there’s always a light at the end of whatever tunnel you’re stuck in, and they reveal that there’s always a reason to persevere. We can’t ignore the great white elephant in the room, aka the loss of Leslie Feist; however, Lisa Lobsinger fills the gap wonderfully, as she swoons just above a whisper for the album’s more emotional tracks.
Forgiveness, like the band’s other albums, is chock-full of fascinating and heartfelt songs, giving us some of the group’s best work to date. The sparkling “World Sick”, with its cascading guitars, shows us from the get-go that the band is older and wiser, and can still make a record that’s a career best. It’s a record made from love in all its forms. Even the last line of the last song tells you so, as they whisper “I love you”, because nothing seems more important than the appreciation the band has received over the years. If they’ve learned anything, it’s that time is on their side, and even though this was a while in the making, it came out exactly how anyone could have wanted it.