The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night

The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night

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Jesus, the Besnard Lakes are fucking exhausting. If you’re listening to them and they’re not pounding out stratospheric levels of psych-rock bombast, then they are probably in one of those languid valleys populated by weepy strings and dramatically distant falsettos. Rest assured though, another dose of widescreen bluster is never more than a few minutes away with this band. Such was the case on their breakthrough album, The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse, and such it is on their newest full-length LP, The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night.

Don’t misunderstand me though; I’m a fan. It would be difficult to argue that The Besnard Lakes are not exceedingly good at what they do. Their hooks are memorable, and the way they embrace such unabashed grandeur is pretty brave. This is music that would be downright embarrassing were it not so well written. So while it’s quality is borderline undeniable, I could hardly blame someone for not being able to make it through a full album of this stuff. And even people who like Dark Horse or Roaring Night may not often find themselves in the mood for it. The average song length is probably five minutes at least, and each of these songs probably would qualify as the centerpiece of any other non-Besnard Lakes album.

The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse certainly felt like a concept album, even if the band never outright acknowledged it, but there’s no such confusion on Roaring Night. The Besnard Lakes have called Roaring Night a “twisting chronicle, or fever dream, of spies, double agents, novelists, and aspiring rock gods” which has, apparently, “turned violent.” I say apparently because the lyrics, frequently drowned out by static, feedback, and general noise as they are, and often delivered in a falsetto that suggests a spectral Brian Wilson, are not always the easiest thing to hear on this album. But the Besnard Lakes are not trying to tell their story through lyrics alone; the lush arrangements tell most of the story.

Sonically, there is not much here that will surprise anyone who has heard Dark Horse. The Besnard Lakes alternate between eerily calm passages augmented with ghostly noises, and skyscraping walls of psychedelic theatrics buoyed by miles of pop harmonies. Fortunately, what worked on Are the Dark Horse works just as well here. “Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent Pt. 2: The Innocent” (yes, half of the titles are in that vein) starts the proceedings with the exact same lack of restraint the Besnard Lakes showed on Dark Horse’s epic opener (“Disaster”). While it’s certainly not subtle, the Besnard Lakes are successful in thrusting their universe upon the listener. You are immersed in their universe from moment one.

And the drama rarely relents from then on. “Chicago Train” casts frontman Jace Lasek’s voice into a sprawling, ethereal abyss for the first half of the song, only to have it rescued in the second half by a majestic chorus of voices and extravagant instrumentation. “Glass Printer” is a wonderfully ostentatious pop song buried in a fog of woozy, shoegaze guitars. The cataclysm at the heart of “Light Up the Night” is rendered as a triumphant mess, adorned with epic guitars and harmonies spiraling around each other. And it all gives way to the gorgeous and stark desolation of “The Lonely Moan,” which carries the album out on a beautifully eerie note. Didn’t I tell you this band is fucking exhausting?


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