Montreal’s Besnard Lakes take their name from a lake on Canada’s Prairies and their sound from 60's pop and twang filtered through some of the noisy aesthetic of 1980's New York art rock and shoegaze. Although they are one of the most talented bands on the Canadian music scene, they’ve been held back by the sudden departure of all but the band’s core duo – husband and wife team Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas – the release of their first album, 'Volume 1', when everyone was paying attention to Broken Social Scene, and Lasek’s occasional distraction by production work for bands such as Wolf Parade, Islands, and Stars.

Those ties have understandably led to a record deal with Canuckophiliac U.S. record label Jagjaguwar (also behind releases by Julie Doiron, Ladyhawk and Black Mountain) for their second full-length album, 'The Besnard Lakes are a Dark Horse', in February.

Thus poised for stardom, or at least the occasional mention on indie-rock websites, The Lakes drove a couple of hours down the road to Ottawa for a little pre-release tour show at Zaphod Beeblebrox.

Their opening act was a local “collective” Amos The Transparent. The band was formed by former members of Keep Yourself Good Company, a local quartet noted for its affection for Radiohead, and its centre is local songwriter Jonathan Chandler. They sound a bit like Elliott Smith with a bigger band – their excellent performance hopefully will lead to attention outside the city limits.

Besnard Lakes then took the stage. Lasek and Goreas had left a band member in Montreal (keyboard player Nicole Lizee was unable to make the journey) but had brought a smoke machine with which they set plumes of smoke jetting across the stage, much to their own amusement.

A good sized crowd had braved the punishing weather outside (-20 C before wind chill kicked in) to see them. I had seen them before a couple of years ago when they had toured behind their first, self-released album. I had brought my sturdiest pair of earplugs as well since their last show had been played at tooth-rattling volume.

This time they kept things below jet takeoff levels and concentrated on the more melodic side of their sound. Their new album allegedly blends in Pink Floyd, the Beach Boys and Roy Orbison, and those can certainly be heard in the 'Dark Side of the Moon' influenced keyboards (played in this case by Lasek and second guitarist Steve Raegele) and the deep-space reverb on Lasek’s twanging Fender Jazzmaster. If Spiritualized had decided to cover Gene Clark’s 'No Doubt' they might have ended up sounding like the Besnard Lakes did on this night.

It was a very entertaining evening from two bands which promise and deserve greater things to come.
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