The mystery of the shoe mountains
It’s been roughly twenty years since Broken Social Scene first hit th´ scene. It’s been quite a journey since then, from their meager beginnings as a duo making ambient music to a twenty-seven person strong indie-rock supergroup (including artists such as Feist, Metric and KC Accidental to name a few). BSS is one of those rare groups that receive regular acclaim from mainstream and independent music critics alike, and for good reason; they’ve released some of the most compelling and innovative albums of the last two decades. While the collective has never formally broken up, they took a lengthy hiatus after their 2010 album, Forgiveness Rock Record. In 2017, they came roaring back with Hug of Thunder, which was released to overwhelmingly positive reviews.
While some fans might have been worried that they were in for another seven years worth of waiting to get some more music from the crew, it looks like the band has been staying active since their return. They dropped an EP, Let’s Try The After (Vol.1) in mid-February, and while it likely won’t top many “best of” lists, it did receive an overall positive reception. Now, two months later, they’ve finally dropped the second installation, Let’s Try The After Vol. 2.
This EP kicks off with the sound of seagulls intermingling with electronic bleeps and bloops. Some indistinct vocalizations echo in the background. Guitars become apparent, picking on one note. As the song crescendos, it produces a visual akin to a curtain being lifted. Some driving drums join us for a few measures before being obscured by washes, giving the whole thing a Krautrock tinge. It all eventually devolves into a single synth sustaining one note.
Track two, “Can’t Find My Heart,” starts things out on a tense note; a synth begins to rise and before quickly being overtaken by a chorale punctuated by snare hits. Then suddenly, the drums break into a frenzied whirlwind of fills. Things straighten out and the drum falls into a sturdy backbeat, accompanied by some driving bass and post-punk guitars. The verse is straightforward, and the chorus is catchy as hell; it’s basically everything you’d want in a song like this. The drummer, Justin Peroff, is the real star here, and he knows it. At every opportunity, the drums morph into a hectic storm of errant rhythms, transforming what would be a better-than-average post-rock song into an absolute anthem. BSS really hit the mark with this one. It’s upbeat enough to get the indie kids dancing, but still moody enough for them to sit and brood to.
Track three, “Big Couches,” is a bit of a low point, as all of the momenta gathered in the previous track gradually dissipates. Singer Kevin Drew’s vocals are steeped in auto-tune, which feels out of place amongst the acoustic guitars, and basically draws attention away from the overall pleasant instrumentation. The song maintains an upbeat bop throughout the entire thing, but it’s nothing special on its own. Things get a little more interesting in the last half when a horn section joins in, but they don’t stick around long enough to really salvage the song.
Track four, “Let’s Try This After,” is a bit of a slog. Even with a runtime of three-and-a-half minutes, it still manages to go on way too long. An entirely arhythmic affair, it features Drew reciting some half-sung half-spoken lyrics about… something. Honestly, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything substantive in these words. At one point he croons about the “mountains in our shoes” and ponders, “who the fuck can climb these?” Given the lack of instrumentation to draw the listeners attention away from the vocals, they are forced to sit there and try to decipher these awkward lyrics. Before the song ends, he makes sure to drop another gem, “tomorrow’s kind of a bitch / the kind of bitch you can’t believe.” The whole thing concludes with some sustained vocal wailings which gradually sink into the backdrop behind a shimmering synth.
Track five, “Wrong Line,” opens up with some janky percussion which sounds like someone just banging pots and pans together. A buttery synthesized bassline slides on in, followed shortly by a drum machine; it’s instantly engaging and almost feels like an apology for the last song. After that, it runs on as pretty conventional indie rock fair, until some really sharp synth chords come in with some funky syncopation. Then the pots and pans come back sporadically, keeping the whole thing interesting. Drew’s voice is pretty ordinary and his lyrics on this album aren’t in top form, but his harmonies are absolutely on point. Also, the junkyard percussion will occasionally bust out these drum fills that are pretty reminiscent of the famous fill on Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.” Overall, it’s a pretty strong way to close the EP out.
Even though this EP only consists of five songs, there are a fair amount of highs and lows. There isn’t a significant change in mood from Vol.1, which begs the question as to why this had to be split into two installations. But at the end of the day, for an EP clocking in at less than twenty minutes, it’s a pretty solid listen. Any casual fans of BSS or indie rock in general should definitely put aside some time and give it a spin.