Their third album since 2003, The Besnard Lakes’ The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night, is a rock album that murmurs, hums and drones. I was expecting an album that was entirely atmospheric, but husband and wife duo Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas have created highly textured rock songs. The drone elements only complement the songs and don’t overpower, like drone cufflinks on a rock tuxedo. Bad similes aside, The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night kept me guessing, while remaining consistent and coherent.
“Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent, Pt. 1: The Ocean” introduces the drone sound—which I expected would set the tone for the entire album—with wobbly synth and guitar feedback that ebbs in and out (like waves in the ocean! Hey!). Organ enters the song ominously, like a low-lying creature moving just above the ocean floor (sorry), seamlessly starting “Like The Ocean, Like the Innocent, Pt. 2: The Innocent.” Lasek’s near-falsetto voice comes in, suspended over the whole arrangement, which is fragile. Then, the song’s tone and structure changes into that of a more typical rock song. Territorial drumming and guitar enter along with the chorus, “Oh you’re like the ocean / Oh you’re like innocent.” I didn’t particularly love this song, but I was happy to see it shift so dramatically.
“Chicago Train,” I swear, uses the vocal melody from “Lucky Man” by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. It’s really drawn out, but it’s there in the French horn part, beneath thoughtful, full violins and Lasek’s operatic vocals. And it works. As in “Like the Ocean,” the song shifts suddenly into rock. The tempo picks up, the chorus comes in, and the French horn melody becomes a scratchy and loud guitar one, nearly drowning out Lasek’s voice.
In “Albatross,” which is the first song that picks up immediately with a rock sound, Lasek does his best Brian Wilson impression, singing “oh’s” behind Gorea’s vocals. The song becomes poppy and fun towards the end, especially with Gorea’s vocals, which are easier on the ears than Lasek’s.
“Glass Printer” came along, and I was disappointed the album was halfway over. The faster tempo and faraway, harmonizing vocals reminded me of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young or the Beatles. Probably because of the subject matter, this song reminded me of the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer,” although thicker and more nuanced.
Like I said earlier, this is not what I was expecting. The Besnard Lakes is super saturated with all these different influences—indie, classic rock, alt rock, surf rock, country—all the while it’s got this spacey quality to it. The songs themselves aren’t particularly catchy or memorable, but the atmosphere the Besnard Lakes have created is, which is to say, this album—recorded with a vintage 1968 Neve germanium mixing console used to record portions of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti, as the group is quick to point out—will leave you feeling comfortably loopy for a little while after you listen to it.