The Besnard Lakes The Besnard Lakes are the Darkhorse

[Jagjaguwar; 2007]

Styles: slow, somber rock
Others: A Northern Chorus, A Is Jump, Black Heart Procession, The Warlocks

When life gets too cluttered, it seems like you’re always bumping into things. Then you bump into something else because you’re backing away from the first thing you bumped into. Then you bump into something else, and before you know it, your life is tumbling down like a row of dominos. You, being the sensitive type, are stuck indefinitely underneath a large pile of issues you never knew you had. You lost it all, and all you had to do was just give yourself room to breathe, room to stretch out when the grind became too much.

There’s nothing The Besnard Lakes know about more than acute breakdowns in both mental states and relationships, if their lyrics are any indication. The difference between them and the competition is simple: The Lakes’ problems present themselves in their lyrics, NOT in the music itself. So while their words might reflect the dissonance of a brain crowded by too many considerations, their compositions are relatively reined-in — echo/reverb expanding the arrangements outward rather than layer upon layer — with enough aural real estate to house both their poetic ambitions and their aesthetic sense of restraint. The result of this delicate balance is one of the best albums of a young 2007.

But before you begin partaking in the hype — which has already anointed the group a litter of Next Big Thing proclamations — you must know the truth: This is absolutely NOT the best The Besnard Lakes can do. Although a handful of its tracks couldn’t get any better, ...Are the Darkhorse, in all its ornate luster, isn’t quite what it could or should be. Chalk it up to what you will, but the flawless execution of its production and the mind-numbing heights of “For Agent 13” and “Devastation” aren’t enough to allot them a free pass just yet. Give them a chance to develop, for fuck’s sake!

You’ll be glad you did; with so much downright scary potential, there’s no telling what this group can achieve. Their flutters of effects, long, frosted periods of sonic dormancy, pefectly balanced twin vocals, and general sense of space set them apart from the herd with a surety you only see in the elite. Like only the best can, they trudge along for ages finding their way through the darkness and manage to keep the listener at bay. At no point will you be impatiently wondering when things are going to ‘kick in,’ nor will you reach for the ‘skip’ button once the vocals emerge from the ether.

Their pallette works in a combination of several colors. The ghostly vocals, plodding tempo, and overall relaxed feel of Darkhorse conjure a wayyy-less-folk Brightblack Morning Light, while the more modern elements (pounding drums, synths, strings) recall the orchestral side of modern indie, the shoegaze movement, and indie’s newfound fixation, the dreaded prog-rock strain. Last but certainly not least, the gorgeous soprano belts of Jace Lasek will make you buckle like only The Beach Boys — or maybe Jon Thor Birgisson — can, though the restrained, single/double-vocal feel is light years away from the Wilson brothers’ complex group harmonies.

Once you’ve mapped them out and locked in their coordinates, all that’s left to do is drift. Besnard Lakes Are the Darkhorse will take care of the rest through an adventurous mindset and a keen ability to prune their sound down to the essential while ensuring their product remains a huge, lumbering beast.

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