Broken Social Scene’s Glorious Return
After going on hiatus nearly five years ago, the Canadian indie supergroup Broken Social Scene are back with their fifth studio album, Hug of Thunder. On this record, the vocals are equal parts male and female, blurring the lines between lead singer and instrumentalist, as the band members are able to reveal their own personal strengths, while creating one coherent sound.
The album begins on a hushed, almost mythical introduction with the song “Sol Luna.” It is an entirely instrumental track that slowly builds before drifting back into its dreamlike beginning. “Halfway Home” is a departure from the opener, as it is a pop anthem on which BSS showcase their strengths: pop-y drums and guitars paired with infectious harmonies. “Vanity Pail Kids” is a synth-pop and funk gem, with monotone vocals similar to those on Blood Orange’s “Better Than Me.” Some of the best instrumentals appear on the songs “Towers and Masons” and “Please Take Me With You.” Both switch effortlessly between tranquil pop, quiet synth and beautiful backing vocals.
The highlight of this record is the role that the women play on it. “Protest Song,” “Hug of Thunder,” “Gonna Get Better” and “Stay Happy” shift their focus to the ladies in the band and feature the vocal talents of Leslie Feist (better known by her stage name Feist), Emily Haines, Amy Millan and Ariel Engle. One of the catchiest tracks on the album also has some of the best lyrics. “Stay Happy” opens with the line, “Came away unscathed / you came alive in your own state / I was naked and staring / at the face that I could not see.” Yet, despite the dark thematic elements, the sound has the complete opposite effect. Whether it’s the soprano vocals or the occasional use of instrumentals that sound as if they were taken straight from the Bewitched theme, the song is infectious.
Fans of Broken Social Scene will be more than happy with the band’s return, but what Hug of Thunder has to offer differs slightly from that of their other releases. The strength of this record not only lies with the women, but also with the way in which the band come together. Instead of muting all of the individual talents of each member, they elevate one another and integrate each specific sound beautifully.