Broken Social Scene
(Arts and Crafts)
Broken Social Scene is a social scene unto itself: The Toronto-based collective has a double-digit roster of musicians revolving around a more or less permanent core of 10 members. From record to record and from show to show, the line-up and instrumentation rotate like a pick-up volleyball game.
On the band's second album, You Forgot It in People, this transitory nature translates into a diversity of sound and an of-the-moment urgency, as if with each song they are trying to capture the few seconds before the inevitable turnover. Songs range from airy pop ("Looks Just Like the Sun") to druggy interlude ("Pacific Theme") to tunefully propulsive indie clatter ("Almost Crimes"). The overall effect, however, is not divisive but organic and cohesive.
Squeezing so many performers into such concise songs results in some oddly inspired instrumentation. On "Almost Crimes," Brodie West's sax breaks the surface for a few breathy notes before swimming out of the song for good. The count-offs and control-room commands on "Looks Just Like the Sun" which amount to something like a DVD director's commentary give the track an absorbing spontaneity and an almost documentary atmosphere, as if the mechanics of recording it were just as important as the performance.
By far the standout on You Forgot It in People is "Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl." Accompanied by a gently plucked banjo and a handful of sympathetic strings, Emily Haines repeats the same few couplets over and over, building them into coded mantras that, as a 29-year-old man, I can't possibly decipher "Park that car/Drop that phone/Sleep on the floor/Dream about me." But everyone, no matter his or her age, should be able to identify with the bittersweet catch in Haines' voice and the dreamy need to obsess and be obsessed over.
Despite its cluttered sonic palette, the music on You Forgot It in People remains targeted and purposeful, sharply simple and winnowed down to its many indispensable elements. It's pop in its hooks and tunes but also pop in a different sense of the word: a quick explosion. Stephen Deusner
the Music Box
(Burnt Toast Vinyl)
Rock music, it seems, can be subdivided endlessly, bands falling into such narrow genres that the defining terms are meaningless to most music fans. With The Marionette and The Music Box, Unwed Sailor has added yet another rock subgenre to the lexicon: This, folks, is music for children's books, or, more appropriately, music for a children's book, Jamie Hunt's exquisitely illustrated story of, well, a marionette and a music box. The jaded music-reviewer side of me wants to scream out in anguish is this what modern music is all about? but, ultimately, the beautifully lilting eclecticism of the album won me over.
Unwed Sailor play melodies that lurch and whirl just like an old-fashioned music box might, balancing acoustic guitar arpeggios with the ring of a battered harmonium, the steady chimes of a glockenspiel, and the resonating deep hum of an electric bass. Hardly rock-and-roll, it's more of the shoe-gazing style of music made popular by groups such as Low, Bedhead, and Labradford. Deeply complex and meditative, Unwed Sailor's music is ultimately irresistible.
Unwed Sailor will be playing at the Young Avenue Deli on Sunday, August 17th, with Circuits Made Simple and Questions in Dialect.
Nobody needs to hear another band further flog the dead horse that is a Tony Iommi riff. Dead Meadow knew this from the get-go, balancing their love of Black Sabbath with an ardor for both Led Zeppelin and Spaceman 3. Scooped up by Matador for their third full-length, Dead Meadow's label debut isn't just another release for the venerable indie but a shot at greatness. Matador's two most recent candidates for a great album were from Interpol and the New Pornographers, and while Dead Meadow are a throwback like the former, I would expect critical references to MTV's Closet Classics as opposed to that of John Hughes soundtracks.
A breathy gallop and reedy, ethereal vocals are the two main factors that separate Dead Meadow from the fading stoner-rock movement that seems to be their albatross. Shivering King and Others downplays a little of their '70s-rock leanings in favor of more British shoegaze elements, so when I write "early Deep Purple meets Ride," I want you to know that it's not a joke, it's a welcome reality. With just as many quieter hippy-bongo happy moments as there are pummeling psychedelic lurch-alongs, this is Dead Meadow being "all-over-the-map" and, as a result, this is Dead Meadow being great.