Broken Social Scene’s Hug of Thunder

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It’s been seven long years. As fans of the Canadian alt-rock group Broken Social Scene waited for the fifth album from the musical collective. And it really is a collective. In a Portland interview, they called this release “a massive anthemic hug.” Brenden, Ariel and Kevin set out to “embrace” the crowds they play for. From anxiety to political atrocities, they reminded the faces at the Fox that we were “beautiful people. Don’t let them divide you.” After the Paris attacks of 2015 and seeing a world of people flaunting self-care and kindness, yet with suicide, bullying and depression on the rise. There was a divide. There was a contradiction in the availability of idealists, the hopefulness of organic, people living locally and the continued path of demise. So what do artists do when faced with these existential conflicts? Well, they make art. Art that is to the point. Art that is bright and honest. “Stay Happy” assures that “There may be dogs at the door. But you are a lottery winner. And maybe it’s my heart that keeps me dreaming. Rise and shine. The dirt in your eyes, the sun in your hair. And never forget, it’s alright.”

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Think of The Lumineers with The Family Crest if they were redistributing peaceful propaganda. Take the track “Halfway Home” off their July album, it brings a distant chorus, sunshine guitar strumming and synchronized onomatopoeia. The kind that gets garbled in static then breaks clearly into the chorus. “Protest Song” brought a feather light feminine voice, tickering taps, and an upbeat tempo I could imagine hiking with through bayside wheat fields. And when they performed “Fire Eye’d Boy” it was like a Hollywood montage, a stage of what music shows include. It was family members going up to each other, guitars kissing and smiles dancing, arms swinging in full circles like every pretend rock star who ever dreamed.

A track from their 2010 album, “Texico Bitches” has these tense dueling guitars that let up when the vocals crack through. Cue the offbeat release that dissolves into deep, clear bass, and you have this American surf rock, like tumbleweeds at the beach when all your friends frolic and drink day warmed beers. Broken Social Scene is tipsy but still tidy, with vocals that are hazy and lethargic but the instrumentation from saxophone to guitar is sharp and alert. Try “Stay Happy” for a taste of this feeling, or “Vanity Pail Kids” for a bit more of the chaotic side.

Review and Photography by Megan T.

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