The Besnard Lakes is an indie/post-rock/shoegaze quintet from Montréal. They formed in 2003 and have released four critically acclaimed albums. Their sophomore album The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse was shortlisted for the 2007 Polaris Music Prize, and The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night was shortlisted for the 2010 Polaris. Their 2013 album Until In Excess Imperceptible UFO was my eighth favorite album of that year, but was only named to the Polaris long list. Their fifth album is slated for release in January 2016.
The band is centered around the husband and wife team of Jace Lasek (guitars/vocals) and Olga Goreas (bass/vocals). Drummer Kevin Laing has been a touring member since 2005 and a for all intents and purposes, has been a full member ever since. Longtime guitarist Richard White has stepped down from his role as touring member, but will continue to contribute in the studio. The band has recently added two new members in Sheenah Ko (keys) and Robbie MacArthur (guitar). Ko and MacArthur are also a couple. Two couples and a drummer as the fifth wheel? Sound familiar?
Last month, the band did something sort of massive. They always have a lot of contributors to their albums, and they wanted to play one show with a bunch of those collaborators on stage. They called the one-off event, which took place during the 2015 Pop Montréal Festival “The Besnard Lakes Are The 17-Piece Band”. Strings, horns, percussion, tuned percussion, backing vocals, you name it. All of it. Among the 12 contributors was Chris Seligman and Evan Cranley, both out of Stars. An interesting side note to that is that Chris Seligman is the Creative Director of the festival, which was founded in 2002 by Chris’ brother Daniel.
I only just caught wind of the forthcoming album, and it’s got me very excited. Today’s song is the title track from the EP and also the lead single from the forthcoming album.
This is that song.
“Golden Lion” by The Besnard Lakes
The song opens with a variation on the famous opening line from Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1830 novel Paul Clifford. The famous line, which has been called “the literary poster child for bad story starters”, but has also been ranked among the best opening sentences. The original Bulwer-Lytton sentence:
It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
I can’t quite make out the entirety of the song’s opening line beyond the “dark and stormy night” phrase, but my best guess is:
In a dark and stormy night
With the light coming over your halo
And the light will go where the rain won’t go
We all wait for the night
I must have some of that wrong, because it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Bulwer-Lytton’s words have been mocked parodied for almost 200 years, but probably none more prominently than by the famous comic strip artist Charles Schulz and his character Snoopy. Snoopy lived a dull life, and created three main alter-egos for himself: “Joe Cool”, “the world-famous WWI flying ace”, and “the world-famous writer”. As “the world-famous writer”, he would appear on top of his doghouse with a typewriter, hammering out the opening to his next novel It always began with “It was a dark and stormy night”, and he always got stuck there. So I can’t help but think of Snoopy at the start of this song.
I haven’t heard the whole album, and I don’t know if the theme of espionage carries on to this album, like it does in the previous three albums. They say there’s a lot of nature and a lot of the occult in this one.
Whatever it is, I like it a lot, and I can’t wait for the album.
The Golden Lion EP will be out on November 13, and A Coliseum Complex Museum will be out on January 22, 2016 via Jagjaguwar. You can pre-order the EP or the album separately, or you can get the “deluxe bundle”, which includes vinyl pressings of both, a cd of the new album and a very limited edition sigil handmade by Olga. Details are here.
Also, here’s the song being played by “The Besnard Lakes Are The 17-Piece Band”. Among the 17, you can see Chris Seligman on the french horn and Evan Cranley on the trombone.