The Besnard Lakes don’t make things easy for themselves, publicity wise. The new album which launched on January 2021, The Besnard Lakes are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings isn’t a title that fits neatly into social media posts, as well they know. But the Canadian outfit don’t particularly care – nothing is going to spoil the integrity of this new work, whether we’re talking about the album title or the music. It’s how the band have always done things – slightly portentous, elements of psych and prog. Just calling the album Warnings! may better suit a WordPress headline – but it wouldn’t fit with the Besnards’ vision.

There was a wobbly moment when it looked like the band were going to call it quits, after leaving their label in 2016. Fortunately they did the opposite: took all the time they needed to conceive, compose, record and mix their new work. The Besnard Lakes are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings is a double album, with no compromises. And they have produced a superb, gorgeous piece of work, probably their finest. They haven’t exactly changed their sound, but they’ve slowed things down when they want and added an experimental feel here and there; this is the Besnards doing things exactly on their terms.

The new album features nine tracks that contemplate the darkness of dying and the light on the other side. “Near Death” is the title of the first side. “Death,” “After Death,” and “Life” follow. It’s a journey into (and back from) the brink: the story of the Besnard Lakes’ own odyssey but also a remembrance of others’, especially the death of vocalist and songwriter Jace Lasek’s father in 2019.

That all-important opening number condenses the mood of the album into one formidable track. Blackstrap unfurls slowly, luxuriating in luminous vocals, and those trademark lush chord changes. There’s the insistent sound of an old-school telephone ringing in the background which goes unanswered and it injects an unsettling note.

Following on is Raindrops, the first single which dropped to positive reviews in October – this is a statuesque, shimmering work. Our Heads Our Hearts on Fire Again (the second single which also features a video) stands out as one of the most striking tracks with its delicate vocals and its Beach Boys-style rich harmonies. This multi-layered anthemic track is going to sound great live.

Acting like a marker as the album starts to approach its conclusion is the mesmerising New Revolution which announces itself with a drum beat and a distinctly tribal quality. The drums, the bass, and a mix of swirling layers mesh together.

The closer is Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings itself: the sprawling two-part 17-minute track seems to stretch out into the distance, an unhurried landscape with that distant thunder rumbling and wind sweeping through a wild landscape. The second part is an extended and haunting section. This is a peaceful and spiritual track, a fitting finale to the turmoil and drama in this long-awaited album.

LIVESTREAM TOUR VIA NOONCHORUS WITH SHOWS ON FEBRUARY 5, MARCH 6 AND APRIL 3.

NEW ALBUM ‘THE BESNARD LAKES ARE THE LAST OF THE GREAT THUNDERSTORM WARNINGS’  OUT JANUARY 29 VIA FULL TIME HOBBY
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