BESNARD LAKES – Are The Dark Horse (JagJaguwar)

Regular readers of the NME might recall a recent cover-mounted CD highlighting the emergent Canadian music scene. For me the stand-out track by a country mile was Besnard Lakes’ ‘And You Lied To Me’, and so before you could say ‘Terence and Phillip’ I had got my hands on the album from which it was taken. Suffice to say that every track on here (with the possible exception of closer ‘Cedric’s War’) is as good as ‘Lied…’, and this album has been on constant rotation ever since. The band are not your run of the mill rock group, and fill each song with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. Some you can see coming, but others take you completely by surprise, like the Magic Hour–style extended guitar rock-out at the end of ‘Lied…’, or the blissed out fuzziness of ‘For Agent 13’. The male and female vocal interplay is obviously going to draw comparisons with Arcade Fire, but for me they delve further back and I can hear echoes of Mercury Rev and Flaming Lips alongside Polyphonic Spree and Brian Wilson. ‘Devastation’ combines hard riffs with a fragile vocal and a chorus that dares you not to sing along. ‘Because Tonight’ takes its time to build up to a climactic finale, while ‘Ride The Rails’ starts from that high point and just gets better as it progresses. This whole album is so much more than just a collection of songs, begging to be heard in its entirety rather than a track here and a track there, so it seems all the more odd to me that ‘Cedric’s War’ appears to be tagged on the end as an afterthought. The song itself is fine, but it is just too ‘pop’ to really fit in with what has gone before. ‘Cedric’s War’ apart, the other tracks have brooding arrangements which add an unsettling feel to them, making them so much more than just throwaway pop songs - these are songs to be savoured over and over again, each time guaranteeing that you will find something new.