Broken Social Scene is at their best when they sound like joy, and Hug of Thunder is the band at its best.
The album begins with ambient noise piece, “Sol Luna,” until the yelp that announces “Halfway Home,” the album’s first single, kicks in. It’s an announcement: Broken Social Scene is back in full force with its first album in seven years.
This intro, in many ways, is typical BSS—a condensed version of the intro from 2003’s You Forgot it in People—and there’s no reason for them to change this dynamic, because it still works.
Now thirteen years since You Forgot it in People, many of Broken Social Scene’s fans were coming of age of when the album was released. Many have settled into adulthood, or are even approaching middle age, and a bit of familiarity is a fitting way for an iconic band to reintroduce itself—but perhaps more importantly, their style has aged well enough that it does not preclude itself from garnering new fans. The band is often upbeat, they have always used synth, electronic drums, and ambiance well, and the arrangements are lush, perfectly unpredictable, and inviting.
The tracks on Hug of Thunder are often simply beautiful—both “Protest Song,” the third track and “Skyline,” the fourth track, have melodies that are immediately engaging, dreamy, and pristine.
With a rotating cast of lead singers, both male and female, just as Broken Social Scene has done on albums like Broken Social Scene and You Forgot it in People, they have created an entire universe in an album—complete with the kind of heartache and love that sometimes explodes into controlled chaos, and at other times is simply sublime. They might be the most romantic band on the planet.
The moment in the title track, “Hug of Thunder,” when all of the backing vocals and drums finally come in, nearly three minutes into the song, feels like long sought after reconciliation, and it’s the kind of breathtaking moment that Broken Social Scene has always been capable of, but that is rare for any artist in any medium to accomplish.
Yes, it’s been seven years since the band’s last album, but Hug of Thunder is as instantly timeless as the rest of their oeuvre.