Crate-Digging: The Besnard Lakes – Are the Roaring Night

I’m not interested in adding a disclaimer today.

(Jagjaguwar, 2010)

Is this headache real, or am I still somewhat drunk? It’s so hard to tell. If I stare hard enough at those trees, maybe I won’t fall off the porch. That’s it – I need some sort of stabilizing visual in order to keep it together.  What time is it anyway? I don’t wanna go to bed yet. The stars are actually quite visible tonight – as long as I don’t spin around… there we go, sit on the steps. Breathe through the nose … inhale, exhale through the mouth. That’s good, chilled out. Damn, this record that I’ve got playing through the window’s good. I’m glad I don’t have any close neighbors around, just farmland off the back stoop. Is that dawn breaking over there? Phew – I have been up a while. There’s that yawn. Maybe I’ll just lie there on the grass. That’ll do. It doesn’t matter, there’s nobody else around. ’Night.

Besnard Lakes, on repeat, drifting out into the pre-dawn air…

That’s the perfect place for it.

You need that exquisite night music against which to set your misguided philosophizing, the contemplation of theoretical nothingness beyond the moment you currently occupy. That is to say, music to celebrate the emptiness and meaninglessness that you’ll surely conclude permeates everything and everyone. But don’t feel bummed out – you’ll return to your senses at some point, and at that time you can spin The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night again, and it will be just as perfect. It will make you feel nostalgic for the reveries you immersed yourself in mere hours before, and you’ll find brighter, clearer, and more positive connections in the process. Downer moments stretch and open in the light of day with this record. The band seems to have a grasp on this whole life thing. You know, nuances and stuff.

Not surprising – The Besnard Lakes’ core is composed of constant members, singers, and songwriters Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, a married couple from Montreal. (Talk about your hip lineups!) Lasek’s a producer by day, and has worked with Wolf Parade, The Dears, Stars, and others, so right there you kind of know what sort of style you’re getting into. Because of this familiarity with the studio, the Lakes do not want for sound quality – all instruments are immaculately layered, and recorded to perfection. This befits the psychedelic-space-pop that the band crafts, and it’s easy to look right on down to the RIYL section below to see the best way to describe where this sound fits into the grand halls of Music History. Those are some nice names. Good, solid names. Guitar, organ, and synthesizer collide throughout the album, cresting and falling, weaving in and out of each other. Lasek and Goreas share vocal duties, and they play off each other well. I don’t know if Lasek multitracks his voice on the sunny harmonies that are seemingly everpresent when he sings, but they’re so tight and spot-on you’d be hard pressed to believe that Brian Wilson was nowhere near the studio when they were recorded. They’re that good.

No good record of this sort would begin with anything other than a two-part suite, and “Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent, Pt. 1: The Ocean” and “…Pt. 2: The Innocent” (duh) do nothing to disappoint or falsely prepare you for the rest of the album. Together the tracks clock in at 9 minutes, and there isn’t a wasted second. “Pt. 1” mimics its subject as waves of controlled guitar feedback and pulsating synth signals wash in and out before culminating in the guitar and drum crashes of “Pt. 2.” The suite plays out with subtle shifts in verse and chorus, always big, but never overbearing. It actually feels like a pop song stretched out, but not too thin. And the downbeat lyrics of the chorus “You’re like the ocean, you’re like the innocent / What’s in your empty eyes?” only emphasizes the longing and hurt in the probably shrugged response.

“Chicago Train” is the long ride home after a night out partying, the alcohol coalescing in your psyche like the depressant it is. But “Albatross” and “Glass Printer” soar with excitement and joy, the former a Goreas-led piece that features beautiful bendy guitar and nestles nicely into Morella’s Forest territory. Lasek’s back on the latter, and here his voice-in-harmony reaches fantastic heights as it sounds at all times like it can’t get any more joyous, and the comedown never arrives.

The record closes squarely in Pink Floyd territory, as suite number two, “Land of Living Skies, Pt. 1: The Land” and “Pt. 2: The Living Skies,” starts Dark Side of the Moon and ends Wish You Were Here … if that means anything. “Light Up the Night” and “And This Is What We Call Progress” follow the pattern just as closely. And again, I can’t emphasize enough how these songs, long as they are, feel like they’re passing in the time it takes a pop song to whiz by. Built to Spill pulled a similar (and admittedly superior) trick with their immaculate Perfect from Now On, and The Besnard Lakes have really taken that ethic to heart. Keep ’em interested. But the end result is, no matter whether …Are the Roaring Night is wafting from your windows to your porch at 5:00am after a night of drinking or coursing through your earbuds on the train in to work on a glorious spring morning, it’s the right place, and the right time. That’s the mark of a good record.

RIYL: Band of Horses, Pink Floyd, Mercury Rev, Spiritualized


4 responses to “Crate-Digging: The Besnard Lakes – Are the Roaring Night

  1. Very well thought out review! Here’s where I shame myself: I’ve never heard of this band…but by invoking Brian Wilson’s name, now I can’t miss them.

    You put a lot of work into this blog…I’ll do my best to keep checking back.


  2. thanks dusty – this site is definitely a labor of love! keep on reading…

    from what i understand, besnard lakes’ album before this one, “are the dark horse,” is a good place to start, but you can’t go wrong either way.

    be warned though – this is definitely more pink floyd than beach boys! good psych pop though.


  3. Pingback: Five Years In: My First Year as a Crate-Digger, Reviewed |·

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