The fifth full-length outing from the substantial Toronto collective -- this iteration is 15 strong -- the aptly named Hug of Thunder is the band's long-awaited follow-up to 2010's Forgiveness Rock Record. A dense, soul-searching blast of civic-minded indie rock/alt-pop comfort food, the 12-track set is mired in the cultural and political miasma of its time, but Broken Social Scene have always been about community -- Kevin Drew has suggested in interviews that the 2015 terror attacks in Paris served as the impetus for the band's reconvening. Leslie Feist, Emily Haines, and Kevin Drew may serve as the group's ambassadors, but BSS are a ship requiring the whole crew to stay afloat, and Hug of Thunder is buoyant with inclusiveness and cautious hope. The shambolic, post-rock kissing cousins to fellow veteran Canadian pop army New Pornographers, Broken Social Scene's aural emissions may be less confectionary, but they're no less immediate. Forgoing some of the elongated, atmosphere-driven instrumentals that peppered prior outings (wordless opener "Sol Luna" clocks in at just over a minute), things escalate quickly with co-openers "Halfway Home" and "Protest Song," two of the punchiest things the band has offered up in years. They dial it back a bit on the dreamy, Drew-led "Skyline," a lush, midnight highway-ready affair that evokes the easy, classic rock vibe of the War on Drugs, but "Vanity Pail Kids" turns the power back on with a knotty, all-hands-on-deck electro-disco party that sees all three lead vocalists representing. However, it's the wordy, Feist-delivered title cut, a master class in balancing mood and melody, that delivers the album's finest moments, and the best distillation of what makes BSS so venerable.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger