They’re from Montreal, they feature a husband and wife team on vocals, and they specialise in big, epic songs. But they’re not Arcade Fire.
Instead, The Besnard Lakes seem to owe more of a debt to their early ’90s shoegazing British cousins rather than any of their Canadian compatriots. There are layers of fuzzy guitars, ethereal vocals and, every so often, a big burst of melody that sounds almost cathartic.
The band’s second album, the prophetically titled The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horses, gave some indication of what they’re all about, and …Are The Roaring Night continues this musical journey. The use of the very same mixing desk used on Led Zeppelin‘s Physical Graffiti gives it a hint of a ‘classic rock’ feel.
It’s that production which really stands out. Lead single Albatross expertly builds layers of distorted guitars on top of each other while Olga Goreas’ honey-sweet vooice mixes perfectly with husband Jace Lasek’s backing vocals to make a heart-stopping, atmospheric song.
The Besnard Lakes are really good at building up a sense of tension before letting it all explode at a key moment. Chicago Train, for example, builds slowly but surely, with Lasek’s distinctive falsetto sounding like a cross between J�nsi and Mercury Rev‘s Jonathan Donahue, warbling in an almost indecipherable manner. Suddenly, there’s a key change and the chorus drops in with a euphoric sense of release.
The epic Like The Ocean Like The Innocent pulls a similar trick, while the howling, Steve Albini-like guitars of Glass Printer mix perfectly, if incongruously, with some sunny Beach Boys-style harmonies. Goreas and Lasek take centre stage for the brilliant Land Of Living Skies, which features dirty great slabs of fuzzy guitars contrasting nicely with the couple’s whispy voices – all very reminiscent of Slowdive in their pomp.
The influence of cult mavericks Grandaddy can also be heard, together with hints of prog-rock (a couple of songs are divided into two parts – although part one is mostly a minute-long extended introduction into the main song). There’s even hints of drone in the seven-minute Light Up The Night, albeit balanced by some nicely bittersweet vocals from Lasek and Goreas.
If there’s a criticism, it would probably be that there’s nothing that matches up to The Dark Horse’s highlights of Devastation or And You Lied To Me. Yet that’s a minor quibble – you won’t find a more compelling wall of sound in many other places this year.