The Imaginary Box Set: Sloan

Perhaps no band with a good-sized discography has spread singing and songwriting duties across four members more evenly than the Canadian power pop band Sloan. The Beatles, of course, had contributions from every member, but the least active songwriter in Sloan has written dozens of songs compared to Ringo's handful of credits. All four members of Queen wrote hits, but Freddie was the unquestionable lead singer. Meanwhile, every member of Sloan has written and sung multiple singles, and has songs on pretty much every album they've released (the only exception: Andrew Scott has no songs on 2003's Action Pact).

Previously I've done 'box sets' of multiple themed Spotify playlists for Superchunk, Elvis Costello, and Pearl Jam. And years and years ago I posted the tracklist here for a Sloan best-of that I made for my brother-in-law John (who now plays in my band). But I always wanted to break up Sloan's discography into the specific contributions of each member. And now is a good time to do that, because this week the band is releasing their 11th album, Commonwealth, which is the first time they've actually divided each member's songs into its own section of the album instead of mixing them all together. It's also their first double album since the late career masterpiece Never Hear The End Of It, which is reason enough for me to get excited.

Chris Murphy is easily the most prolific songwriter in Sloan, with over 60 songs in the band's discography, while the other guys each have somewhere between 30 and 40. Those songs include the first five songs on the band's debut, among them their first hit "Underwhelmed," which marked him as the band's de facto frontman at first. And in some ways the bassist is the embodiment of the collective personality Sloan, a self-deprecating wiseass with glasses and a nasally voice. But Patrick Pentland has emerged as the band's most effortless hitmaker, writing the lead singles for 7 of the band's 11 albums, including several of their biggest hits, and he really just has a great rock voice and an ear for Stonesy riffs. Jay Ferguson's whispy voice and electric piano give the band its strongest '70s AM gold vibes. And drummer Andrew Scott, though the weakest link in the band's singer/songwriter chain by default with his limited vocal range, has been responsible for some of Sloan's greatest hard rock moments.

Of course, I'm simplifying and stereotyping each of those guys, when they've all stretched out and done lots of different kinds of songs over the course of the band's career. And the division of labor isn't so tidy -- you can hear other members do backing vocals and call-and-response lead parts on each other's songs all the time, and I'm sure there's a fair bit of collaborating in the writing (there's only one song in their discography, "Flying High Again," where all four share lead vocals). Hopefully each of these playlists shows their strengths individually and collectively. I think any of these would be an impressive best-of for a whole band's career, although they definitely sound best all balancing each other out and blending their ideas and influences together. But if you need an introduction to this great, great band, it'd probably be good to sample a few songs from each playlist and figure out whose voice you like the most at first.

Disc 1: Chris Murphy (Spotify playlist)

1. Underwhelmed
2. G Turns To D
3. I'm Not A Kid Anymore
4. Coax Me
5. I Am The Cancer
6. The Marquee And The Moon
7. The Other Man
8. Your Daddy Will Do
9. She Says What She Means
10. Penpals
11. Oh Dear Diary
12. Autobiography
13. Set In Motion
14. Left Of Centre
15. Nothing Left To Make Me Want To Stay
16. Nothing Lasts Forever Anymore
17. Keep On Thinkin'
18. Pick It Up And Dial It
19. Ready For You
20. Try To Make It
21. Take It Upon Yourself
22. Last Time In Love
23. Another Way I Could Do It
24. The Rest Of My Life

Disc 2: Patrick Pentland (Spotify playlist)

1. The Good In Everyone
2. If It Feels Good Do It
3. Listen To The Radio
4. Money City Maniacs
5. I Was Wrong
6. It's In Your Eyes
7. Sugartune
8. Iggy & Angus
9. I Can Feel It
10. Everything You've Done Wrong
12. Burn For It
13. A Long Time Coming
14. Ill-Placed Trust
15. I've Gotta Know
16. Can't Face Up
17. Losing California
18. Believe In Me
19. Is It Never
20. All Used Up
21. Friendship
22. I'm Not Through With You Yet
23. I Understand
24. Unkind

Disc 3: Jay Ferguson (Spotify playlist)

1. C'mon C'mon (We're Gonna Get It Started)
2. Don't You Believe A Word
3. The Lines You Amend
4. I Hate My Generation
5. Witch's Wand
6. Lemonzinger
7. Snowsuit Sound
8. Junior Panthers
9. Waiting For Slow Songs
10. Are You Giving Me Back My Love
11. Right Or Wrong
12. Cheap Champagne
13. Who Taught You To Live Like That?
14. The Answer Was You
15. Step On It Jean
16. Midnight Mass
17. Take Good Care of the Poor Boy
18. Green Gardens, Cold Montreal
19. Dreaming of You\
20. False Alarm
21. Light Years
22. If I Could Change Your Mind
23. Before the End of the Race
24. Fade Away
25. What's There To Decide?
26. I Wanna Thank You

Disc 4: Andrew Scott (Spotify playlist)

1. People Of The Sky
2. On The Horizon
3. I've Gotta Try
4. 400 Metres
5. 500 Up
6. A Side Wins
7. I Can't Sleep
8. In The Movies
9. I Know You
10. Sensory Deprivation
11. Down In The Basement
12. Something's Wrong
13. Seems So Heavy
14. Where Are You Now?
15. The N.S.
16. Never Seeing The Ground For The Sky
17. Too Many
18. Love Is All Around
19. The Great Wall
20. Traces
21. Before I Do
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