It’s tough to critique The Besnard Lakes’ You Lived in the City since I’m not even sure what to call it—in various news stories and press releases, it’s been called a 12”, an EP, a fully realized project, a lark. Whatever the terminology, one thing’s clear, even from the very first seconds: It ain’t half-assed. Being The Besnard Lakes and all, one of the most meticulous psych-rock bands in all of Canada/the world, one expects a certain attention to artful detail—even on a limited release…thingy, especially since the quartet hasn’t put out a dud to speak of. In terms of craft, You Lived in the City delivers without question.
Context is important: Since the music was envisioned as the soundtrack to Welcome to Pine Point, an interactive online documentary, ambience plays a crucial role on this release. The two tracks in the middle, “Holiday Sin” and “Some Colour in the Sky,” are more texture than true song. Both utilize the sonic trademarks The Besnard Lakes have refined to this point—Jace Lacek’s creamy, reverb-soaked guitars and dark, brooding Mellotrons—and as background music, you pretty much can’t top it. Inevitably, though, the two band-oriented tracks that bookend the album are far more rewarding—and either could have found a welcome home on either of their last two full-lengths.
First is the euphoric “We’re Here for a Good Time (Not a Long Time),” a cover of the Trooper single of the same name. Part-time vocalist Olga Goreas sings the upbeat title sentiments (“A very good friend of mine told me something the other day / I’d like to pass it on to you”) in her glazed-over glow, a slightly odd marriage of lyric and delivery, but the whole thing is swept up in the music’s overwhelming beauty. Closer “The Corner” could pass for ( )-era Sigur Rós with its dark, looming organ and icy drum kits. “I’ve seen your name in my dreams,” Goreas sings. “I’ve seen your name in magazines.” Effective enough star-gazing, but it hardly matters anyhow; after the quiet ambience that precedes, it’s thrilling to hear the whole band back together, percolating for seven minutes in psychedelic harmony: electric guitars circling in trademark precision, chalky bass cutting through the mix like a Ginsu knife.
It won’t change anyone’s life, and it wasn’t designed to. But You Lived in the City is a nonetheless worthy entry in this great band’s growing catalog.