Broken Social Scene – Hug Of Thunder

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The Canadian collective's return comes with plenty of the expected sonic thrills.

It kinda feels like all our old friends are coming back again in 2017. We’ve featured records from Fleet Foxes, Dirty Projectors and Land Of Talk so far this year. There are new Arcade Fire, The National and LCD Soundsystem records on the way, and no doubt plenty more awaiting us before the year is through.

Broken Social Scene might not make the indie rock headlines as readily as the aforementioned acts, but fans profess a feverish devotion to the sprawling Canadian collective. While those fans will hold Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning up as the rightful leaders, a broader audience might be more impressed that the band features Feist, members of Metric, Stars and Do Make Say Think.

Whatever your reason for coming to Broken Social Scene’s fifth album Hug Of Thunder, the album should satisfy. It’s perhaps not the greatest entry point for a newcomer, but anyone with a penchant for quality indie rock that threatens to go off the walls, but never quite does, will find something to like here.

 

First single ‘Halfway Home’ makes a lot more sense when it kicks in after the atmospheric intro of ‘Sol Luna’, or maybe familiarity has just made us fonder of the lush, swirling jam.  It’s a joy to hear Emily Haines’ voice again on ‘Protest Song’, while ‘Stay Happy’ is an exciting introduction to new member Ariel Engle, whose voice is a perfect fit with the song’s dreamy ambiance.

The urgency of ‘Vanity Pail Kids’ is just as contagious as its charmingly rigid chorus is, and the weirdly winding ‘Towers And Masons’ brilliantly balances a stack of disparate and complex elements.

Leslie Feist leads the album’s title track, which makes a strong case for being the album highlight. It starts off incredibly understated and gradually becomes something far fuller and richer, thanks to a big, reverberant snare and some tastefully layered harmonies.

For all their brilliant musical ideas, there are a few that are less effective. ‘Skyline’ sounds big, but doesn’t stick with you for long. Likewise, ‘Victim Lover’ feels meandering despite some intriguing sounds in the mix. Having so many members must make self-editing a nightmare, but trimming a couple of flatter moments would make this a far punchier return.

But, overall, Broken Social Scene’s return to active duty is impactful. These are well crafted pieces of indie pop that retain that exuberant sense of experimentation that has always been the collective’s greatest quality. 

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