The Besnard Lakes - "Albatross" (... are the Roaring Night)
The Besnard Lakes write songs with arcs and arches, constructions that ebb and flow, dipping into genres and subgenres without every quite declaring themselves members of one specific club. The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night resembles the group’s last full-length 2007’s excellent The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse, but it also calls to mind genre-straddling works like Catherine Wheel’s Chrome and Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs — albums that borrowed elements from stylistic movements without ever being of them. The Besnard Lakes are fond of songs that clock in past the five-minute mark, but neither the prog nor the post-rock label fits; the guitars do take on a physical loudness, but filing this under “shoegaze” would be inaccurate. The best moments on …are the Roaring Night memorably wed sweeping archetypes to quietly intimate details. When the album loses momentum, it’s due to a reliance on overly familiar tropes, making what had been a recognizably Besnard Lakes song something far easier to quantify, and thus less memorable.
“Chicago Train” stands as one of the album’s highlights. It opens quietly, the stirrings of a symphony arranged for a rock band, before Jace Lasek’s voice keens on the verge of wordlessness. Over the course of four minutes, it builds and builds; Lasek sings about “the last train to Chicago,” before a spiky guitar line overtakes a more restrained keyboard melody, settling into a stately rhythm, all the song’s elements in balance. Given the reference to trains and the lyrical segue into a rawer denouement, it’s something of a sequel to …are the Dark Horse‘s “Rides the Rails.”
Those glimpses of the familiar aren’t always positive. “Glass Printer” opens with a dense thicket of guitars and a marriage of texture and propulsion that recalls the aforementioned Catherine Wheel. Unfortunately, it goes from there into a point at which Lasek’s vocals are pushed against louder and louder music, a stylistic gesture that’s repeated on “Light Up the Night.” While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, it’s less of a unique gesture — taken on its own, that finale could be mistaken for any number of other bands.
Many of the album’s vocal highlights come from bassist Olga Goreas. Her croon on “Albatross” ushers the song through several musical shifts, and it provides a calming center as the band increases the volume for the song’s final ninety seconds. Her voice and Lasek’s trade off verses on “Land Of Living Skies Pt. 2: The Living Skies,” the vocal transition echoed by shifts in the music. And it’s Goreas whose voice ends the album with the ethereal “The Lonely Moan,” its bassline something of a callback to the one at the center of the earlier “And This Is What We Call Progress.” And the higher profile of her voice here relative to …are the Dark Horse is a sign of encouragement: Goreas’s more prominent vocal role provides a payoff that helps to balance the moments on this album where the group’s musical ideas aren’t quite as seamless as on its predecessor.