The Besnard Lakes Take Maximalist Approach to Psych Rock on Double LP ‘The Besnard Lakes Are the Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Montreal-based indie psych-rockers The Besnard Lakes are back with their new album, The Besnard Lakes Are the Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings, after a five-year break. The album title may sound pretentious but is in line with past albums like their sophomore release The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse and the 2010 follow-up The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night. The similarity to these past releases doesn’t end there either. Whereas their 2016 album A Coliseum Complex Museum embraced brevity, The Besnard Lakes Are the Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings is back to the maximalist tendencies of the band’s past releases. The six-piece band, fronted by the husband-and-wife team of Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas takes the listener on a journey through death and ultimately new life on the album along with the highs and lows that we experience throughout.

The Besnard Lakes Are the Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings is being released as a double vinyl LP with each side being given a thematic name: “Near Death” is the title of the first side followed by “Death,” “After Death,” and “Life.” The concept of the album was inspired by loss, namely that of singer Jace Lasek’s father, and contemplates the idea of dying and life afterwards. The album opens on a very subdued note with “Blackstrap,” using light synth jingles and ominous soundscapes for a full three minutes before dark synths, distorted guitars and an international ring tone (think Dark Side of the Moon) start the buildup for the entire album. The track “Feuds with Guns” is easily the brightest moment on the album with its light-hearted vibe that can be most easily compared to MGMT. “The Father of Time Wakes Up” gives the listener multiple guitar attacks in the buildup which are very appropriate as the track laments the death of Prince. The alternating vocals of Lasek and Goreas on “Our Heads, Our Hearts on Fire Again” combined with its cinematic buildup definitely brings comparisons to Spiritualized and The Polyphonic Spree. The title track closes the album with six minutes of slowly building orchestral rock that is then followed up with eleven more minutes of droning chords that continue to ebb and flow giving the listener a feeling of floating in nothingness.

As with all double albums, it can be a bit of a trying listen as the music stretches out over nine tracks and seventy-two minutes. The album’s extended length gives each track a chance to breathe, and the band make great work of the many lengthy buildups, taking their time layering instruments to bring each track into a crescendo. The Besnard Lakes Are the Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings will assuredly be a favorite for longtime fans but may be a bit daunting for first timers and is not for the casual listener. However, for those willing to put in the time listening to the whole album, the payoff will be worth it in the end.

Photo credit: Joseph Yarmush

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