Broken Social Scene’s latest release, Hug of Thunder, is its first album since 2010’s Forgiveness Rock Record and its fifth overall. In the seven years since Forgiveness Rock Record, the group has returned with various lineups for the occasional music festival appearance, but Hug of Thunder marks the return all fifteen original members (including Emily Haines of Metric and Leslie Feist).
Founder Kevin Drew mentions two specific sources that spurred the band into making a new album. The first: producer Joe Chiccarelli, who hounded Drew to record a new album. “He started showing up at our label, asking if we were going to make an album,” Drew recalls. “He just didn’t give up; he just kept saying, ‘You’ve got to strike, you’ve got to do this, the time is now,’ and so finally we agreed.” The second: the Paris terror attacks of November 2015, which made him feel the world needed an injection of positivity: “It just sort of made us want to go out there and play. Because I think we’ve always been a band that’s been a celebration.“
The resulting album is a welcome return of the group’s upbeat indie pop. Tracks like “Gonna Get Better” and the horn-accented “Stay Happy” offer a bright and optimistic outlook. The group is not looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, however. Hug of Thunder finds Broken Social Scene engaged and aware of the lurking darkness. The album isn’t filled with accusations, though. On the contrary it focuses on confusion and ambiguity. The title track ends with Feist singing “There was a military base across the street.” The line is an observation, but she packs an enormous amount of ambivalence into it.