Deriving their name from Besnard Lake, which is about 230 miles north of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the acclaimed, multi-Polaris Music Prize-nominated, Montreal-based shoegazer outfit The Besnard Lakes — currently, husband and wife duo Jace Lasek (vocals, guitar, bass, drums, keys) and Olga Goreas (vocals, bass), along with Kevin Laing (drums), Richard White (guitar), Sheenah Ko (keys) and Robbie MacArthur (guitar) — formed back in 2003. And since their formation, the Canadian shoegazers have released six albums of expansive, atmospheric and textured shoegaze that has been described as magisterial and cinematic by critics.
2016’s A Coliseum Complex Museum saw the Montreal-based outfit saw the band attempting to craft shorter, less sprawling songs. But after the album’s release, The Besnard Lakes and their longtime label home Jagjaguwar decided to mutually go their separate ways. With that decision, the Canadian shoegazers faced several career and life-altering questions: Did it make sense to even continue the band? What use is a band with an instinct for crafting expansive songs that balanced muscular heft and ethereal grave that often clocked in at five, 10 or even 18 minutes long? How can they sell that in the age of short attention spans and streaming? Can it even be relevant?
After a period of contemplation, the band came to the realization that it didn’t fucking matter. So, fueled by their love for each other, and for creating and playing music together, the members of The Besnard Lakes found themselves creating what may arguably be their most uncompromising album to date, last year’s The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of The Great Thunderstorm Warnings.
Unlike their previous five albums, the Canadian shoegazer outfit eschewed their long-held two or three year record release cycle, and went with a much more patient creative approach in which they took all the time they needed to conceive, write, record and mix the album’s material. Some of the album’s songs are old and can trace their origins back to resurrected demos that the band had left on the shelf to be worked on, several years before The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of The Great Thunderstorm Warnings sessions. Other songs were woodshedded in the cabin behind Laske’s and Goreas’ Riguard Ranch with the band relishing a rougher, grittier sound.
Thematically, the Montreal-based band’s sixth album found the band contemplating the darkness of dying, the light on the other side — and coming back from the brink of annihilation. While in many ways touching about the band’s own story, the album is also a remembrance of dear loved ones, who are no longer with us — in particular, Lasek’s father who died in 2020.
From Lasek’s observations of his father’s death, being on one’s deathbed may be the most intense and unshakable psychedelic trip of anyone’s life: at one point, Lasek’s father surfaced from a morphine-induced dream, talking about how he saw a “window” on his blanket with a “carpenter inside of it, making objects.” These observations helped to imbue the material with a fever dream-like quality.
The acclaimed Montreal shoegazers start off 2022 with “She’s an Icicle,” an outtake from The Besnard Lakes Are The Last Great Thunderstorm Warnings sessions. Clocking in at a little over six-and-half minutes, and having gone through a process of editing and reworking, the expansive “She’s an Icicle” is centered around three distinct sections:
- a gentle and dreamy introduction featuring shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars
- a driving middle section featuring distortion and reverb-drenched guitars, a chugging and propulsive bass line, glistening bursts of synths and four-on-the-four-like drumming
- a dreamy and contemplative coda that repeats the motif started in the introductory section — but with fluttering feedback, forceful drumming and glistening synth bursts before fading out
Each of those three sections are held together by Jace Lasek’s achingly plaintive falsetto and some gorgeous harmonizing. And while being an ode to a lost love, “She’s an Icicle” the continues a remarkable run of expansive and exploratory material centered around gorgeous melodies and earnest lyricism.