With song titles "Children Play Well Together" and "People Eating Fruit," you might think that Start Breaking My Heart had something in common with Boards Of Canada and their light and playful sound. If you did think the above, you'd be about half-right. Manitoba definitely has things in common with that group, but also with artists like Four Tet (Dan Snaith of Manitoba is friends with Kieren Hebden of Four Tet), combining some organic instrumentation alongside smart programming and amazingly hummable tunes.
The album actually leads off with a track that might be slightly misleading for the whole of the disc. After a few moments of quiet synths, "Dundas, Ontario" leaps to life with some punchy drum programming and some quiet glitch sounds in the background to nice effect. It's the second track of the aforementioned "People Eating Fruit" that will have the BOC fans drooling, though. Drifting along with one of the catchiest melodies on the entire album, a sample of some children singing floats through, until later in the track when the same sample is pitched-down and put side-by-side for a peculiar harmony.
From there, the album moves into several different areas, while still managing to keep the same feel throughout. "Mammals Vs. Reptiles" has a bit more of a jazzy feel with sampled horns and tons of interesting percussion while "Brandon" is an amazing mid-tempo track that builds into something quite multi-layered and dense from its simple beginnings. Although it's the shortest track on the release, "Lemon Yoghourt" turns stuttering organ samples into a warmer version of something you'd hear on Fennesz's Endless Summer release.
Even though there are tracks like the darker "Children Play Well Together" and the complete mish-mash of "Paul's Birthday" (which somehow manages to combine samples of harps, horns, windchimes, upright bass, and birds with a rather slamming beat) that stand out a bit from the others, the album flows together pretty nicely. With the closing 30 seconds of the disc (which sounds like a little kid singing karoake), you're once again reminded of the sense of fun that runs through the disc.
It's actually kind of a shame that this album hasn't made more of a splash, as it really is quite good and I would recommend it to anyone who likes the above groups. In a year in which electronic music redeemed itself again in my mind, this is yet another subtle, great album that moves along with a pastoral feel but never feels boring. Four Tet may be selling more copies (and even getting his music in Nike commercials), but Start Breaking My Heart works just as well in my mind for repeated play. Or, put both albums on one next to the other and have an hour and a half of lovely music.