Listening to Broken Records Toska, the Edinburgh based bands first release in four years, it strikes me that there are two defined (though not necessarily mutually exclusive) routes available when putting together an EP. The first option is to release something that is a piece in its own right, a completed whole; the second, to provide a ‘highlights reel’ of new material. Broken Record’s latest certainly seems to fall into the latter category.
Toska immediately feels cinematic, with a title track which showcases the six-piece’s gift for musical arrangement – a wash of strings and piano resolve into a mesmeric and restrained rhythm, and with smooth vocals, some frankly refreshing drumming and strings that wouldn’t be out of place at a cèilidh, ‘Toska’ blooms. ‘See You on the Way Down’ sounds (and I mean this entirely as a compliment) like a song which didn’t quite make the final cut of Push the Sky Away. Nick Cave’s lyrics are missing, but the mood is there. The instrumental ‘Ward’ further showcases the bands knack for nuanced musical arrangement, and with the finale, the anthemic ‘Revival’, it is easy to understand why Broken Records are often rather lazily dubbed ‘the Scottish Arcade Fire’.
Toska, then, is an EP made up of four exceptional songs, but something is missing. I described it as cinematic, so I’ll explain my problem by way of a filmic analogy: A short film has a narrative and wholeness about it; an extended cinematic trailer serves to incite curiosity and hint at what a full length feature has to offer, without conveying the finer points of the narrative. Toska, as I see it, is a cinematic trailer in this sense. Though I am excited to hear more from Broken Records, it’s not because I was overwhelmed with the EP as a complete release, but rather because I want to fill in the gaps that the ‘trailer’, with all of its promise, left unfilled. It departs from an enveloping ‘A’, and arrives triumphantly at ‘B’, but Toska’s flaw, as I see it, is that it doesn’t really feel like you’ve travelled if you’ve only seen the highlights of the journey.
Words: David Fraser