Indie Supergroup Strikes Right Chord With Sensitive Breakup Tunes

Broken Social Scene
Forgiveness Rock Record
Arts & Crafts Productions

With a soft tempo and sincere sensitivity, Canadian super-group Broken Social Scene’s fittingly named Forgiveness Rock Record becomes the optimal soundtrack for a moody onset evening. Dramatic song titles, unassuming sonic textures and open-heart sentiments scream formulaic breakup album, but the care with which understated vocals are laid over the new-age folk beat — devoid of the whine so common in choked-up emotional endeavors — creates a cohesive whole that’s more genuine feeling than forced connection.

Album opener “World Sick” begins with a single guitar string, plucked and plucked again, an acid teardrop on the band’s history of soul-consuming shoegaze. But then they arrive: the drums, followed by synthesizers, all building to a charged chorus of electric guitar with an explosion of cymbals behind it. Despite the natural disaster in the background, lyrics are never tempted away from straightforward — even when addressing the complications of chronic lovesickness. By omitting the show of lyrical selfishness so common in breakup ballads, “World Sick” instead lets a talented group of players become the internal earthquake behind a frail, hurting human voice.

But they also know when to break the trend. A persistent buzzing kicks off album highlight “Sweetest Kill,” soon joined by a two-note bass track that sends itself rollicking. The balance is reversed: This time, background noise is sparse, while the vocals warble and echo, drawing out the last disillusioned note of a failed relationship.

“Water In Hell” similarly tips the balance the band has so carefully cultivated — but doesn’t betray the heartsick theme — by launching into a state of denial. It begins with a twangy, country intro completely devoid of TLC. Nasally vocals are overwrought, senseless inanities (“From what I can tell/ There’s water in hell”) shouted onto a numbing backdrop.

In a much kinder manner, the rest of Forgiveness proves that Broken Social Scene can be the introspective therapists we need in a rough patch — and somehow, we still feel cool.