Broken Social Scene are known for their triumphant, group-sung anthems, but the multi-membered Toronto collective's true strength lies in their ability to balance the grandiose with the subtle. This was particularly true of 2002's era-defining You Forgot It in People: For every glorious crescendo there was an ambient ballad or a patient instrumental passage.
Hug of Thunder, which comes after a seven-year gap between albums, highlights the strength of the Toronto collective's quiet tunes. Although the album has its share of epic moments — the towering "Halfway Home," the thundering surge of the Emily Haines-sung "Protest Song" — the record hits its stride with the mellower tunes on the back half.
This excellent run of songs begins with the Feist-sung title track, a jaw-dropping stunner that begins as a sparse groove before blossoming into a lushly layered chorus of sighing harmonies. On "Victim Lover," bleary-eyed vocals melodies intertwine with a cyclical horn figure, while Kevin Drew sings lead on the delicate "Please Take Me With You," its jazzy drums beautifully shifting into straight-ahead swagger in the final section.
With the exception of the title cut, which is among the band's best-ever songs, Hug of Thunder isn't a life-changing album. That said, it's a case of a classic group sticking to their guns and highlighting what made us love them in the first place. After so many years without a Broken Social Scene album, this is a very welcome return.
Pre-order Hug of Thunder on clear vinyl via Umusic. (Arts & Crafts)