Best tunes of 2002: #8 Broken Social Scene “Cause = time”

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My good friend and infrequent contributor to this blog, Andrew Rodriguez, once quipped that I wasn’t able to be a fan of a band unless they had at least six members. And while he exaggerated some, it’s true that a lot of the new bands that I discovered and fell for in the 2000s had a lot of personnel. This singular characteristic, however, wasn’t one that automatically made me a fan of the act in question. As a case in point, Broken Social Scene is a band who is quite famous for having a large contingent, filling stages both large and small, whenever and wherever they played live, and try as I might, I was never able to get into them in their early days.

The Toronto-based indie collective actually started out as duo back in 1999. Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning recorded their mostly instrumental, ambient debut album, 2001’s “Feel good lost”, by themselves, for the most part. When it came to performing it live, however, Drew and Canning would enlist the help of their friends, many of them fixtures of the Toronto indie rock scene, members of bands already established or soon to be established, like Metric, Stars, Apostles of Hustle, and Feist. The duo then brought a lot of these same friends into the studio with them when they recorded their sophomore album, the now iconic “You forgot it in people”, and the rest, as they are wont to say, is history. The album was critically acclaimed, did quite well commercially for a Canadian indie band, and was cited in many conversations as one of the centrepieces around which the Canadian indie explosion of the 2000s revolved. And I remember telling people in similar conversations that I appreciated all that, but for me, they were a band of whose parts I enjoyed more than their sum.

Of course, that was back then. These days, I love Broken Social Scene. Somewhere along the line, I came to my senses and became a fan, allowing me to reclaim my Canadian citizenship. I’ve seen them live twice, experiencing the magic that made me question whether or not I was on bad drugs when I listened to them early on. Their show is so much fun, seeing so many talented musicians playing together on the same stage, all contributing to creating that perfect sound and obviously, having fun doing it. Yeah and each time I saw them, the show was completely different because it was a different combination of musicians on stage. It seems that it’s like – whoever’s available, come on out and play. And play and rock, they do.

“Cause = time” is the perfect way to illustrate how they bring the rock. It was an exceptional tune for me because it was one of the few that I liked even before I became a full-fledged fan. The atmospherics of their early work still laid the groundwork but the driving drum beat, rumbling bass line, and screeching, screaming, and scratching guitars all get the heart racing. Indeed, it is a noisy cacophony and could’ve been in danger of becoming unlistenable if it weren’t for the counterpoint put forward by Kevin Drew. He settles things down to a mellow and cool vibe with his vocals and it’s like losing yourself in the beauty of the moment while the chaos of the world flashes violently around you.

Chaos and calm. That says it right there.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.

Best tunes of 1992: #15 Luna “Anesthesia”

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A couple of weeks ago, I posted about how I first met Luna for their entry at (coincidentally) #15 on my Best tunes of 2002 list. It was their sophomore album, “Bewitched”, with which I first fell in love with them and then I continued to follow Luna through each subsequent release from there. Their debut album, “Lunapark”, however, I didn’t actually hear until after they disbanded in 2005, and to be honest, it was after I first listened to a live version of our tune of focus today on their sole live album, the obviously-titled, “Luna live”.

I was a bit sore about their disbanding, perhaps more so because I was supposed to see them live on one of their last tours that hit Toronto but I missed it. (I’ll save that story for a future post.) I immediately began grasping at whichever of their albums to which I’d had yet to listen, starting with the aforementioned live album, which I had previously ignored because I’m not typically a fan of live records. I loved this one though on first listen, the sound is incredible and their live energy was palpably captured on the recording. One of the standout tracks for me, of course, was “Anesthesia”, which I had incredibly never heard beforehand. I tracked it down as appearing on the debut and so when I saw “Lunapark” sitting on my friend Mark’s CD racks one day, I asked him to borrow it.

Luna was still a trio when they recorded this debut. Ex-Galaxie 500 frontman Dean Wareham had just put together the group with drummer Stanley Demeski (ex of The Feelies) and bassist Justin Harwood (ex of The Chills), causing critics in the know to pull out the ‘indie supergroup’ label. The sound wasn’t super distant from Galaxie 500’s latter day work but Wareham’s two band mates definitely made their presence felt in the dream pop miasma.

On “Anesthesia” in particular, the bass is quite muscular, sinewy and organic and lots of heft, while Demeski’s drumming is impeccable, tight yet loose. I know that doesn’t sound like it makes sense but just listen to the drumming in the song and it will. And of course, there’s Wareham’s guitar work, at times dancing and shimmering, jangly finger plucking through the verses and then, he gets all rock and roll and radical after the choruses.

I’ve included the slightly shorter and cleaner original version from the album below but if you can find it, I’d also recommend having a go at the live version (from “Luna live”) as well. Both are great to get lost in for a few moments. You’re welcome.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.

Vinyl love: Piroshka “Brickbat”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Piroshka
Album Title: Brickbat
Year released: 2019
Details: black vinyl, hand screen-printed sleeve, signed postcard

The skinny: Just this past Tuesday, I started counting down my favourite albums of the year with my traditional ‘honourable mentions’ post, focusing on albums ten through six on my list. At the top of that post, I did a bit of a cheat by sharing a photo of four records that didn’t quite make the top ten, but that bore mentioning nonetheless, and one of these was this very album: “Brickbat” by Piroshka. Fans of Lush, Moose, Modern English, and Elastica should take note, that is, if they already haven’t. This is a supergroup, though the members would have you believing otherwise, made up pieces of those very bands, and this resulting debut sounds a bit like each and like none of them at the same time. For me, the album was a grower and am now glad that I pulled the trigger early, ordering a vinyl copy direct from Bella Union, and doing so early enough to get the limited edition hand-printed sleeve and autographed postcard. Yeah, a sweet score all round.

Standout track: “Everlastingly yours”