[Album Review] Broken Social Scene- Hug of Thunder
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Release Date: July 7th, 2017
Label: Arts & Crafts

Writing a review of your favourite band is hard. It’s doubly hard when the album comes along with the weight and expectations associated with ending a 7-year hiatus. It’s hard to divorce the present-day version of a band you love from the one that brought you the kind of pivotal moments in time that were soundtracked by albums like Feel Good Lost and You Forgot It In People.  All potential biases and high expectations aside, I think I can confidently declare that Hug of Thunder is up there alongside the band’s strongest efforts.

In their finest moments, Broken Social Scene songs tell us about the power in belonging, about togetherness, and ultimately, about the power of friendship. The press surrounding the release of the record suggests that the band got back together (at least partially) because of a sense of urgency after the 2015 Bataclan attack in Paris, and this urgency is palpable on the record. Ultimately, Broken Social Scene is a band that’s about unity, and on Hug of Thunder is a perfect encapsulation of that.

The aptly named Hug of Thunder is an uplifting, lush, emotional record that somehow succeeds at feeling expansive and intimate at the same time. There are anthems galore (notably, the lead single “Halfway Home” and the clever Emily Haines-led “Protest Song”) as well as quiet introspective moments that wouldn’t have been out of place on You Forgot it in People (“Hug of Thunder”). It’s not all sunshine and roses though, with the plaintive melancholy of “Skyline” evoking disappointment and longing, and “Mouth Guards of the Apocalypse” taking dead aim at the state of our world (with dark lyrics like “words of hope are a joke for the numb”). Finally, probably the most underrated aspect of Broken Social Scene is their horn section, and they don’t disappoint on Hug of Thunder with the Ariel Engle-led “Stay Happy” or on “Victim Lover”.

While the majority of the album is a slight broadening of their tried-and-true sonic formula, there are some really interesting twists and turns that bear mentioning. The thundering drums and distorted electric guitars on “Vanity Pail Kids” are kind of out of character but the song explodes into an instantly recognizable BSS horn section and group chorus. The second-to-last song on the album, “Gonna Get Better” is led with a drum track and sees the band taking a slightly jazzier turn, with (relative) newcomer Ariel Engle offering optimism about the future, if only because things are already at rock bottom.

What a way to end a hiatus.