Naming your album ...Are the Dark Horse is probably not the best way to inspire confidence in your band, but in the case of the Besnard Lakes, no other description is more apt. Hailing from Canada—the second most indiepop-driven country in the world (behind Sweden, of course)—this quartet maintains close ties to mindless pop bands like Wolf Parade and the Unicorns. But rather than follow their peers, they've neatly abandoned the three-minute pop songs, opting instead for creating sprawling, shoegazing, guitar-based anthems that have indeed made them the dark horse.
Drawing influence from the vocal harmonies of the Beach Boys, the song structures of Sigur Rós, and the slowcore ethos of Low, the Besnard Lakes have created a melody-driven, achingly sad, kick-you-in-the-face epic recording. The cathartic eruptions that grace the end of most of these tracks are, for all intents and purposes, the final push that will give these dark horses the win. With pounding drumming and ear-splitting guitars, it's as if their sadness manifests itself in anger, which is the perfect (and reasonable) ending to songs with downbeat lyrics like, "Because tonight/You'll suffocate 'til dawn/And all the world/Had wished you hadn't gone away, dear/Don't go."
Sure, the grass is always greener on the other side, but in Canada's case, it might just be true. Maybe it's the free health care, but one quick glance at the slew of indie bands hailing from up north shows a bunch of devoted, excited, hook-driven pop bands. Which is all well and good, but it's the exact opposite of what the Besnard Lakes are all about. Harmony-driven, boy-girl vocals aside, this band is more interested in creating pretty noise than writing catchy tunes, and it's not a recipe ripe for getting swept up as the next big thing. But unlike their pop brethren neighbors, the Besnard Lakes have serious staying power, and aren't going away anytime soon.