Saturday, March 3, 2007

Recommended Album of the Week: The Besnard Lakes - Are the Dark Horse

As the title of the album might suggest, Montreal's The Besnard Lakes are out to prove themselves. Fellow Montreal-ites The Unicorns, Arcade Fire, and Wolf Parade/Sunset Rubdown have garnered some serious attention over the past few years, and while its possible the Besnard Lakes aren't looking for as much attention, it can safely be said that they at least don't want to be overlooked. Nor should they. Are the Dark Horse is 45 minutes of pure headphone candy. The album is similar enough to Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade in the way they incorporate multiple instruments into each song, but very dissimilar in what they create as a result. Where Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade reached for grandiosity on their debut albums, the Besnard Lakes took their ambitions a step beyond and attempted to make an album that is epic. That, and their love for 1970's smoke-'em-if-you-got-'em classic rock bands.

Opening track "Disaster" and the second song, "For Agent 13", are both excellent mood setters, and if you are enjoying a smoke, they're fantastic ways to get settled in before liftoff. There's lots of reverb over the vocals and guitars and, well, you name it. At times, there's also strings that occasionally dip into Sigur Ros territory. The songs are incredibly enjoyable, but a whole album of said songs could, and most likely would, get a little boring after a while. Luckily, the album's third song, "And You Lied to Me", hits like a ton of bricks. Granted, it isn't until about 5 minutes into the song when it does happen, but it happens, and you'll be thankful when it does, and by it I mean the freakout guitar solo that sounds straight out of an early 90's Smashing Pumpkins record (another fan of the Floyd) that not only provides a much needed jolt after drifting along for so long, but is also long enough without going too long and sounding like a jam-band or a even Built to Spill concert.

From there you get "Devastation", which pretty much solidifies and captures the band's love for the music of our parents. This would be an easy song to hate, the female backup singers singing the chorus of the song may be a little to corny, but its also catchy as hell, and I dare you to listen to this song a couple of times and not find yourself humming it later. It may not be as good as the songs before or after, but its certainly the most memorable after the early listens.

After the full on rock assault of "Devastation", Are the Dark Horse comes full circle with songs that are soaked in reverb and spotted with trippy strings. This includes my personal favorite song, "Because Tonight", which will probably still be one of my favorite songs of 2007 by years end.

In short, the Besnard Lakes may be the dark horse, and they might still be overlooked when its all said and done, especially with the highly anticipated Neon Bible being released on Tuesday. Still, its a bold and often striking album that will be appreciated by those who hear it, and if nothing else is a step up from being known as the band that opened for the Unicorns.

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