Album Review - The Besnard Lakes, "...Are The Dark Horse"

I posted a few weeks ago about the new album from The Besnard Lakes, The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse. This week saw its official release through Jagjaguwar records. The album is a voluptuous mix of Brian Wilson-influenced harmonies with the epic song structure of mid-70’s prog-rock. Certainly a combination that doesn’t work on paper (or a computer screen), but it actually does on record in a big, bold, grandiose way.

The cover image of a dark horse riding through a fiery backdrop suggests a heavy, ominous set of songs, and, for the most part, the album delivers on this proposal. However, …Are the Dark Horse opens with perhaps its most understated moments - the simple chords, tape hiss, violin/horn interplay, and high vocals of lead singer Jace Lasekon on “Disaster”. Soon enough though he sings, “your life’s work, and shred it to pieces”, and some voluminous power chords blast in, turning the song into a wall of fuzz and melody. Then comes some thunderous drums to match the guitar, and the chorus of “you’ve got disaster on your mind” washes over you like an acid rain. The song started out as a gentle lull, then exploded into a downpour of something more caustic, which is the template for much of the album.

But knowing where these songs are going doesn’t impede the ride to get there. Album centerpiece “And You Lied To Me” is the perfect example. Starting with a threatening, bass-heavy groove and plaintive vocals, the song brings you ever closer over several minutes to its expressive, reverberant conclusion - a guitar solo so menacing you’ll want to experience it again immediately. “Rides the Rails” is one of the more immediate sounding songs on the album, as it rides a chorus that lodges itself in your head. And the beat of “Cedric’s War” gallops in proudly, humming a Beach Boys tune while laughing off the apocalypse.

The dark horse symbol this album portends can be viewed as two separate entities. First, the traditional dark horse as underdog. This is a band with a strange combination of influences compared to much of the indie-rock universe, and for them this album is their chance at an upset. The dark horse also implies a dark rider, one bringing something fateful along behind. These songs act like the soundtrack to a heartbroken end of the world, the last chance for a slow dance before we’re all swept away.

MP3 - And You Lied To Me

Go to The Besnard Lakes myspace to hear more.


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