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The 10 best Broken Social Scene songs

Melody Lau

Eighteen years, five albums and more than two dozen members. You can’t deny the imprint Broken Social Scene has made on the Canadian music scene. The Toronto collective has made a name for itself over the years with grandiose anthems that swell with horns, strings and as many voices as they can fit on any given stage. They’ve made various CBC Music lists over the years, from best Canadian bands to best Canadian songs — and each spot has been well earned.

To celebrate the release of the band's fifth studio album, Hug of Thunder, the staff at CBC Music got together to narrow down Broken Social Scene’s expansive catalogue into its 10 best songs ever. (No side projects were considered, and no Hug of Thunder songs were included because this list was compiled before we'd all heard the new album.) From there, we took this list to the source itself, asking for input from members Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning and Charles Spearin.

The following songs were not necessarily their personal picks — as you'll see below — but they did share some stories and memories related to each song. Scroll down to see the full list and tell us via Twitter: what do you think is the best Broken Social Scene song ever?

10. 'It’s All Gonna Break' (Broken Social Scene, 2005)

Kevin Drew: We had written that during the You Forgot it in People time.

Charles Spearin: We recorded it, too. But the first time we recorded it, for You Forgot it in People. It just didn’t have the power that the song needed.

Brendan Canning: We didn’t see eye to eye on this song. Kevin and Charlie liked the version we had and [producer David Newfeld] and I didn’t. I specifically remember having to fight for it to not be on the record because it’s a nine-minute-long song.

9. 'Almost Crimes' (You Forgot it in People, 2002)

Canning: That song was very different from when we first recorded it.

Drew: [David Neufeld] really took that one and said, "Nah this isn’t working." Then [member Jimmy Shaw] came up with this guitar line.

Spearin: I hated it at first but we improved it, I’d like to think. It sounded too much like the Strokes when we did the bed tracks. That was before [vocalist Leslie Feist] was on it, that was before the synths were on it, but there was an effort to make it our own.

8. 'KC Accidental' (You Forgot it in People, 2002)

Drew: It’s [drummer Justin Peroff’s] favourite song because that really shows you who Justin Peroff is, how influential he’s been. He’s an original, there’s only one drummer like him and that’s such a great song to show exactly what his power is.

7. 'Ibi Dreams of Pavement' (Broken Social Scene, 2005)

Canning: This was originally for Ibi Kaslik’s book launch. I had to convince Kevin a bit like, trust me, dude, this is a good song; it’s going to be a Broken Social Scene song. It came together in one run-through, we were just like, "Oh yeah, I know this song.”

Drew: And [members Jimmy Shaw and Evan Cranley] came in on the horns and that just sealed the deal for us. Evan and Jimmy play all these instruments but when it came to horns, those two — as well as Charlie who was playing trumpet all of two years at that point — it was just phenomenal to watch them all work together. That song is just such a surge of horn urgency.

6. 'Major Label Debut (Fast)' (Broken Social Scene, 2005)

Spearin: Just choosing all the pop songs, eh?

Drew: That’s boring!

While the band didn't have much more to add to this song selection, Drew did say this about "Major Label Debut" in a 2007 interview with Pop Matters: "All the powers that be that worked for us/around us were saying, 'Make that one the hit. Let’s do this, let’s record it, let’s go.' And I remember thinking, 'I’m not putting that on the record!' [Laughs.] ‘Cause I don’t want to sing that song for the rest of my life, if — by chance — anything like that was to happen, you know?"

5. 'All to All' (Forgiveness Rock Record, 2010)

Drew: [Vocalist Lisa Lobsinger] is an incredible singer and we needed something for her. She had been with us for five years and we were like, "Lobby, you need a song." She was going through a time that really reflected those lyrics, which we sat down and wrote together. We just really wanted to see Lobby have something of her own and shine by embracing her because we had put her in so many situations where she had to be other people and that was very, very difficult for her. She took on a huge challenge in doing that so, for her to turn around and find her own pacing which she has done more and more of now, I was just so happy that there was something in the set that she could own.

4. 'Cause = Time' (You Forgot it in People, 2002)

Drew: We had that song up and going and I didn’t totally have the lyrics for it yet. I went to the staging of the cross because the Pope was in town for the youth mission. Jason Collett called and said, "Oh cool, I’m going to grab a slice of pizza, want me to grab one for you?" So, I go there, in this huge crowd, and he hands me my slice of pizza and a picket sign. I remember taking a bite of my pizza, holding the sign, and I look down and there was a man praying for me. And I turned around and someone screamed in my face, and all of a sudden we were surrounded by other protesters who were waiting for us to be there.

Spearin: I remember getting swallowed up by that whole thing and then going to a Hidden Cameras show in the middle of it all, which was incredible. They had condoms with stickers on them that said "Papa don’t preach.”

Drew: It was unreal, something I had never experienced, so stupidly just walking into basically what was a battle. I turned around, went right back into the studio and I wrote the lyrics. I kind of wrote them from the perspective of the people who were screaming at me.

3. '7/4 Shoreline' (Broken Social Scene, 2005)

Drew: We had people sing with us when we were on tour, just local women came and sang with us on this song and it was phenomenal. "7/4 Shoreline" gave us great memories.

Canning: We had a woman from Taiwan, who didn’t speak English, sing that song with us.

2. 'Anthems For a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl' (You Forgot it in People, 2002)

Canning: It was recorded in my basement. Kevin was upstairs doing something and he came downstairs and said, "That sounds like f--king Garageband!" But that song just started coming: I found a bassline and I whispered a little motif into [vocalist Emily Haines’s] ear. "Used to be one of the rotten ones and I liked you for that." We were rehearsing for a show at the Horseshoe Tavern and we came up with that song and another called "Wrong Ones" for that show.

Drew: It solidified the relationship with [members Jimmy Shaw and Haines] because we wrote so well together. This song became one of our greats. Emily struck a chord. We didn’t know what kind of band we were becoming, but that song basically solidified us with the ladies and we knew we had to continue that route.

1. 'Lover’s Spit' (You Forgot it in People, 2002/Bee Hives, 2004)

Drew: So much of what I write about is always leaving, always being halfway in or out the door. I live my life like that, not by choice, but it just seems to be where I am. I was married at the time, when I wrote this song, to a wonderful woman who I’m still very close with. And [this song] was written at a time where I was like, are we going to make it? And you look around and it’s no different from now, but the issues are just bigger now. I’ve been singing that song for 13 years now and I remember, when we put it down, I said to Brendan, ‘We’re going to play Massey Hall with this,’ and 13 years later, we played it. It was very emotional and beautiful.

Spearin: This song just spoke the whole truth. And that line, "You know it's time that we grow old and do some shit" — that was Kevin’s best.

Drew: We’re all struggling to stay together and we all want to be saved by someone. But, we also want to save ourselves. Themes like that never change and I just realized that, at that point, and I still realize that to this day.

More to explore:

First Play: Broken Social Scene, Hug of Thunder

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