Welcome to this first edition of what I hope will be a weekly feature. As anyone who has the misfortune of meeting me knows, a good deal of my time and thought is devoted to popular music. While everyone enjoys music in their own way – on the radio, their iPod, at a club – I’ve always been an album junkie. Sure, I enjoy a killer track as much as the next person and I’ll often shuffle my music, but for me there is nothing more satisfying than putting on a record and letting track one flow through to track whatever. Now that the internet is turning the album into a retro fetish – echo boomers like me are probably best compared to the Generation Xers who preferred vinyl – I figure there’s no harm in spending a post a week writing about those albums that hold a special place in my collection.
There are a lot of important developments in my life that I haven’t yet written about on this blog, one of which is that – after living back at home for a year to save money while taking my public relations program – I’m moving into downtown Halifax on the first of October or so. David Venn – you may remember him from such posts as the Dead Babies shirt photo exposé – and I are taking up residency in an apartment building on Brunswick Street, right across from the Metro Centre.
Frankly, it’s about time.
For a long time I’ve come to the realization that I’m a downtown person trapped in out-of-town circumstances. This is likely the reason why many weekends over the past six or eight months I’ve found myself downtown, sometimes even after working an 8 hour shift at Downeast. In the vast majority of these cases, I’ve been driving my parents’ big white van around.
A couple of times, yes, I crashed downtown at a friend’s place, but I’m not a fan of doing so because I don’t like putting other people out to accommodate me, even if I do usually wake up and leave quite early and quietly (now that I think about it, my exits are not unlike those of a one-stand-standee looking to get an early start on his or her walk of shame). Sure, it means that I mostly had to refrain from alcohol when I was out, but whatever, I’m not a huge drinker anyways and I had to make do with my circumstances.
Those days are soon to be over, and there’s much about them that I’m not going to miss, like the complete and total sobriety, or the logistics of finding parking spaces.
But on some level, I’m going to miss the driving. I absolutely love driving around the city late at night. I always have: back when I was in high school if I was driving home from somewhere I would often take a side-trip just to watch the lights fly by as I drove. And it’s even better when there are passengers to share the trip with, be they incomprehensively drunk or incomprehensively sober.
Of all of the albums in my collection, none are so perfect to soundtrack Saturday night chaperoning than Broken Social Scene’s 2002 breakthrough You Forgot It In People. Over 56 minutes the album goes through every sort of emotion musically that one would want on such an endeavour, from fists-in-the-air-crank-the-stereo-roll-down-the-windows-and-scream-your-lungs -out anthems to some of the dreamiest pop songs that I’ve ever had the pleasure to come across.
In fact, that’s the album’s greatest strength. While it’s an experimental album in many ways, You Forgot It In People is really a pop record that just can’t help itself when it comes to being a little off-kilter. Like a good night on the town, it sounds like it could all fall apart at any moment, and there’s so much going on that it’s hard to keep track of. But there’s a unity and a flow to it that feels completely, absolutely right in spite of any self-indulgence that might occur (and what’s a Saturday night without any self-indulgence?).
It’s also an experience that champions the collective over the individual. There’s been more than enough written about the internal politics of Broken Social Scene and the number of notable artists involved, so I won’t copy any of that here. But what’s so great about You Forgot It In People – and more the case than with the band’s self-titled follow-up – is that it never feels like a side-project that happens to involve these semi-famous musicians. It’s never “this is the song where Feist sings” or “this is the one that Emily Haines sings.” Instead, their voices feel completely right for the songs their attached too, and their now-semi-famous personas simply disappear.
The other night, while driving into town to meet some friends to chill and chat for a couple of hours, I brought You Forgot It In People in the van with me. While it’s the rockers – “KC Accidental,” “Almost Crimes,” “Cause = Time” that soundtracked my drive in, it was on the way back home when the album’s more dream-poppy second half played that I was struck by how much every city drive needs a soundtrack, and how perfectly the dips and dives of the arpeggios of Kevin Drew and co. mixed with the jagged skyline as I flew by, window down, stereo cranked, driving home when all but us insanes are fast asleep.
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Almost Crimes”