Broken Social Scene Keeps That Canadian Sharing Thing Sounding Fresh

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I’ve been taking some heat from Canadian readers who wonder why I didn’t include any Canadian tracks on my interim Top 10 of 2017 list the other day. Canadians are trained to think in terms of Canadian quotas, and I should know, I am one. Anyway I told them there were three great Canadian tracks that just missed the cut – Arcade Fire’s “Everything Now”, The New Pornographers’ “High Ticket Attractions”, and Feist’s “Pleasure”. And just last week I raved about Emily Haines’ new single “Fatal Gift”. If the list was Top 15 they would have all been on it, and I probably would have shifted the order around too.

Well here’s a new track from Broken Social Scene and I would have added it to the list too. Like Arcade Fire and The New Pornographers, Broken Social Scene is a musical collective where members come and go as they please, contributing when they can. It’s such a Canadian thing, sharing time on stage so that everyone gets a chance to play. It’s like waiting a little longer in the office so that everybody gets a chance to see the doctor. It’s what we do.

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Broken Social Scene has embodied that spirit of egalitarianism more than any other Canadian band, but I would argue it has probably hurt their sound more than it has helped it. When you’ve got ten people on stage, all playing instruments and singing, it can be big and anthemic and powerful, or it can be an amorphous wave of sound washing right past you. I have always thought Arcade Fire and especially the New Pornos have better songwriting and better melodies and generally more focus than BSS, but maybe that’s just me.

However I am loving this new track “Stay Happy”, it’s a bit of a new sound for the band and it really grabs you. The opening vocals straight out of 60s European expressionist movies give you an off-beat spin right out of the gate. Then Brendan Canning’s bass kicks in a tropical beat and we’re in new territory, a purposeful groove, a tighter sound and an uplifting message about living in the moment: “The hours the minutes the seconds/ The more you are I will be me”. If it’s a new direction for the band, I hope they keep going there from time to time.

“Stay Happy”, that’s a fine message for these troubled times, isn’t it? It sounds like a directive from the Canadian government, especially on this, the week of Canada’s 150th birthday. Happy Birthday Canada!

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