Montreal band Besnard Lakes add even more power to their orchestral pop-rock blend, with epic compositions and dense yet opaque song structures. Land of the Living Skies stacks instrument upon instrument as it moves along, adding each element with precision until the song is at its optimum balance. Albatross sketches in horns, layered vocals, and chilled drums, and Chicago Train utilizes strings to interplay its sad feel with the guitar work. All of the attention to detail is what makes this one of the Canadian bands more accessible yet still unique sets.
Phosphorescent - Heres to Taking it Easy - Dead Oceans
Most reminiscent of older Wilco, this alt-Americana bands latest features the expected country-Western rhythms, buzzing guitars, and
lovelorn lyrics. Its nothing terribly different for the band, but the songs are solid, and reside thematically well on the album as a whole. The Mermaid Parade - one of the sets best tunes - finds singer Houck wandering around New Yorks Coney Island after a breakup; another song, aptly titled Los Angeles, plops the band on the opposite coast, complete with underground folk guitar and the unmistakable influence of Neil Young.
Josh Ritter - So Runs the World Away - Pytheas
Ritters fifth album finds him in an audacious mood, with the albums lyrical topics centering on explorers and discoverers from Egypt to the Polar caps to the high seas. Its nice to see an artist crafting a theme like this and seeing it all the way through the album, and the quality of the music matches these aspirations; Southern Pacific sings of a seafaring man; The Curse tells the tale of an Egyptian mummy meeting a modern-day archaeologist; and The Remnant finds Ritter musically trekking through the wilderness. Ambitious and well-executed.
Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart - Jagjaguwar
Hailing from the other side of Canada, Vancouvers Black Mountain have thankfully grown since their first classic-meets-drone rock album back in 2005, with this more advanced, emotional set. While their sound is not for everyone - it veers too much toward 70s psychedelic-metal for its own good at times - the tunes are well-structured and there are some interesting little components that hint toward better things in the future. Buried by the Blues utilizes a simple tambourine to set the pace, and Radiant Heart is a standout duet between singers McBean and Webber.