The Beginning Stages Of...

The Beginning Stages Of...

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Broken Social Scene

Album: You Forgot It In People
Label: Paper Bag/Arts & Crafts
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The Polyphonic Spree

Album: The Beginning Stages Of...
Label: Good/Hollywood

The buzz on both Broken Social Scene's You Forgot It In People and The Polyphonic Spree's The Beginning Stages Of... started building last year, when the records were first released on micro-indie and/or import-only labels. Now reissued and more readily available, the two albums face the challenge of maintaining their air of specialness, as scarcity is no longer a selling point. Both should do fine. You Forgot It In People is the trickier of the two records, with the roughly 10-piece Broken Social Scene taking a more actively exploratory approach to Dismemberment Plan-style atmospheric drone-funk. The Toronto collective's members sound like creative, intuitive artists assembling music without a manual, using what's lying around and exploding impulsively from ripples to waves. The method leads to unusual combinations, like the vocal whispers over fragments of feedback and rhythmic clapping on "Stars And Sons," which comes across like a thrice-removed translation of Eurodisco. Other tracks sound like the band happened on an unusual groove, locked in, and signaled the engineer to start recording. Example: "Cause = Time," which finds a danceable strain of downbeat indie-pop and walks insistently through it, while co-leaders Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning (with alternate vocalists Leslie Feist and Emily Haines) chant self-defining poetry and pause to strangle the occasional guitar. The commitment to iconoclastic expressiveness, which includes belting out some fairly raunchy lyrics, leads to dead ends, but Broken Social Scene never blows it altogether, because it holds onto its hooks to get out of tough corners. The 27-piece Dallas pop orchestra The Polyphonic Spree has nothing but hooks. For all its broadly imagined instrumentation, the group is really just a power tool for driving home the darkly sunny songs of bandleader and former Tripping Daisy frontman Tim DeLaughter. The Beginning Stages Of...'s "It's The Sun" uses the group's massive vocal choir to remarkable effect, alternating a big sound (accented by kettledrum, horns, and a free-tweeting flute) with placid, minor-key psych-folk that recalls the quieter passages of Pink Floyd. The dazed, dreamy "Days Like These Keep Me Warm" works with DeLaughter's more dynamic work to marry the swept-up, gleefully anonymous "lost in a crowd" feeling with a strong wave of the forlorn. Though he could stand to loosen the reins and let his sidemen push the songs into more adventurous territory, DeLaughter has at least figured out how to create a dramatic effect. When the second part of "Hanging Around The Day" or the album's climactic "Light & Day" burst into the open, the swell of music sounds more than just exciting: It sounds encouraging.

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