Many might not be familiar with the Besnard Lakes, which is a real shame. The Montreal musical unit whose core is husband and wife duo Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas are multi-Polaris Prize nominees who since 2004 have released highly intricate and sprawling space rock that at times borders on dream pop and shoegaze. 2007’s The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse and 2010’s The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night are both great showcases of their talent and penchant for daunting LP titles that are long but accurate. Tracks like “Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent Parts 1 & 2” are great distillations of the sound and feel they are trying to achieve.
The Besnard Lakes Are the Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings (from here on out just Thunderstorm Warning) sees the unit revitalized after leaving their longtime label Jagjaguwar. Which isn’t to say anything negative about previous releases: 2016’s A Coliseum Complex Museum was less sprawling and languid than previous releases, which were known for long and intricate pieces, but instead was an attempt to make more concise and accessible tracks, which they put forth a pretty valiant effort to achieve while still trying to stay in the confines of being a “Besnard Lakes” album. Since that release, they left Jagjaguwar and sadly Lasek’s father passed away. This is a double LP dealing with death and loss, and not just the loss of Lasek’s father. The tracks on Thunderstorm Warning do not feel weighted down in grief, in fact quite the opposite. The tracks feel free to breathe and grow into whatever Lasek and Goreas feel they need to be, which for most of the LP is up in the stratosphere. This is an album you listen to and feel blissed out as it just carries you with it.
This isn’t to say that this is a fully accessible album either. If long, slower-paced compositions are not your cup of tea, you might have issues getting through some of the tracks, particularly the closer “The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings,” a nearly-18-minute track that ends with 11 minutes of drone. However, tracks like “The Father of Time Wakes Up” with its buildup and incredible release of spiraling guitars will reel you in. The two shortest tracks are also the most pop oriented: “Feuds with Guns” and “Raindrops” are the Besnard Lakes’ take on contemporary synth pop and both fit rather well here, especially “Raindrops,” which helps to lift you up after the eeriness of album opener “Blackstrap.”
All in all, this is a great album that despite being about death isn’t weighted down by the seriousness of the subject. | Michael Koehler
Stand out tracks: “Blackstrap,” the aptly named “Our Head, Our Hearts on Fire Again,” “The Father of Time Wakes Up,” and the title track closer.