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Album Review

Although Spirit If... is officially a Kevin Drew release, based on the number of Broken Social Scene members, associates, and friends who appear on it, the fact that the song "TBTF" appears on BSS's MySpace site, and that the actual album cover itself reads "Broken Social Scene Presents: Kevin Drew," it's pretty easy to believe the lead singer and co-founder is just acting as a front for the entire band. Not that anyone in the Toronto-based collective has ever shunned the idea of collaborations: even on more traditional "solo" work, there's always been the idea that guest artists, those who make up the group, can bring immeasurable advantages with their own personal expertise and ideas. So such is the attitude behind Spirit If..., an album that, while it certainly doesn't break from the subtly ornate, orchestral lushness that Broken Social Scene does so well, is able to play a little more with sparseness, with the meaning behind rests and pauses. "Broke Me Up" has a nice indie country feel, complete with slide guitar and a piano that does more than simply add depth and layers to the background, but actually takes something that resembles a solo, as Drew sings in a sad whisper. The vocals, too, are mixed at a level that allows comprehension, even if the words themselves aren't always understood. But Drew is more about overall effect and atmosphere than the significance found in individual songs and phrases — which excuses the fact that a lot of things he says don't make a lot of sense — and also means that Spirit If... is the kind of album that takes some time to set in, whose melodies and acoustic guitar backgrounds and occasional burst of anger need the luxury of distance and reflection to truly find their place. This doesn't mean that there aren't some great moments here — the dark, pulsating Greg Dulli-inspired "Frightening Lives," the wonderful chamber pop of "Bodhi Sappy Weekend," which features the background vocal talents of Feist — but the record is focused more on the future, on creating an impression, than on immediate satisfaction, giving it an appeal that only strengthens as time goes on, and making Spirit If... another impressive, affective release in the ever-growing Broken Social Scene catalog.


Formed: 1999 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Broken Social Scene materialized in 1999 when K.C. Accidental's Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, formerly of By Divine Right, bonded their friendship into a band. They spent the next few years honing an atmospheric rock sound in their native Toronto and the dynamic was great. Feel Good Lost marked their debut album in 2001 and introduced a revolving cast of Canadian indie musicians. Drew's fellow mate from Do Make Say Think, Charles Spearin, was added to the band, as well as Evan Cranley (Stars),...
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