Review Summary: After a low-key debut album simply titled "Vol. 1" by the founding (and leaders) husband-and-wife members Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, The Besnard Lakes (now a six-piece group) have released the excellent "The Besnard Lakes Are the Black Horse."
The opener, and best track of the album, is ironically called "Disaster," although thankfully the song is anything but. Starting with a strumming guitar and falsetto vocals by Lasek, the track gently introduces the amazing string, horn, flute, and saxophone arrangements (incredibly all done by Nicole Lizée) before the drums kick in and bring this song to another level. Once the bass enters in as well, it completes this aural feast. Of course, the lyrics aren't taking a backseat to the music... with Lasek singing about spies, lies, secrets, and disasters, it definitely fits the mood the music brings forth. Then, just as everything is playing together, it slowly simplifies to the guitar's feedback. One of the best songs of the year, period.
So, how does the next track, "For Agent 13" measures up to the opener? It doesn't, truly. Although it's an appreciative mellow song, unfortunately "For Agent 13" is just TOO mellow... at least until the last minute of the song. At least this kick of energy unleashes, or this track would be skipped. Thankfully, "And You Lied To Me" isn't mellow. In fact, this song is THE epic of all of the epic tracks of the album, and that's a compliment. Of course, since this is the longest song of the album, one shouldn't be shocked. With the lyric "And you lied to me. You aren't even who you said you were" serving as the basis of the song, and the two, back-to-back, blazing guitar solos at the end of the song, the 7+ minute track seems like only 4.
Following is "Devastation," where Goreas takes the lead vocal in this monster track. Featuring three guitars, two bassists, and three drums and a choir (http://www.musicomh.com/albums/besnard-lakes_0207.htm, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Besnard_Lakes_Are_the_Dark_Horse), this sound should be a uncontrollable mess... instead, it's controlled chaos. The most impressive part of the song is the drum soli (plural for solo), where they play by themselves without going too overboard. Amazing track and an album highlight.
Next is "Because Tonight," yet another mellow track, but unlike "For Agent 13," it actually is alluring enough to keep the listener's attention. Also, after the last two tracks, a mellow track is well needed. The first half is Goreas singing, then the second half Lasek returns to the mic. Also, this track is another showcase of THE arrangements of Lizée. Just a lovely track... although the lyrics may be about suicide: "Because tonight, when everyone's gone home you'll grab the knife to satisfy your dark needs."
After that, the thumping bass (played by main bassist Goreas) starts off "Rides The Rails" and also is the last track that features the arrangements of Lisée as well. The verse-chorus-repeat structure is played up alot, with new instruments and varied lyrics, and the song is very well done.
The penultimate track, "On Bedford and Grand" is the most streamlined and ordinary track of the album. No monstrous guitar, thunderous bass, violent drums, haunting vocals, or a sweeping orchestra on this track... just a simple bass-guitar-drums-vocal arrangements. Practically a groovy indie rock song. The closer, "Cedric's War," is a huge slab of country, and although the lyrics are probably anti-war, strangely it's the most lighthearted track of the album (especially the unexpected laugh near the middle of the song). Nice closer for this album (and also the shortest song of the album)
This album is a great album, but, sans the closer, be prepared for songs that are at least 5 minutes long. However, if that fact doesn't bother you, then pick up this excellent album.
TheSaneLunatic's Top Three Recommendations:
3. Rides The Rails