Wintersleep - Somehow I have missed this Halifax band over the last ten years. And by this 45 minute set's end, it is apparent that missing this band has been much to my detriment. The five guys on stage delivered some of the best songs I have heard on a small stage. The set reminded me of a good REM album, 2-3 superior rock songs with amazing hooks along with several other songs that vary the style a bit and are solid enough on their own. They use some nice dynamic tempo shifts a few times that are not often completed this successfully. This music would fit in well with just about any of the major bands in this style such as the Decemberists, Iron and Wine, or Midlake to name a few. As the room swelled to near capacity, the ovation got louder and this band earned it easily.
The Besnard Lakes - Also from Canada, but from the bigger Montreal scene, comes the Besnard Lakes. A couple of guitars, bass and drums is all, although there is some noisy undercurrent controlled on stage. My first impression is that this is a shoegazey hybrid of indie-rock, pop, and heartland. It smoothly moves in and out of categorization which is always a positive for me. Each song moves at its own pace and with its own level of noise. The male and female vocals are a key focal point in many of the songs. The male voice is actually higher pitched reminding me of Antony Hegarty. Maybe they are a more shoegazey Porcupine Tree? Well, add some rustic North American touches and you may have it. They keep it dark ("too dark" they mention at one point as they couldn't see anyone out there) and mysterious on stage with a bit of smoke and some stage lighting that adds some color and most importantly does not blind me tonight. Dreamy, spacey songs work their way out of this environment and are a challenge to grab on to, but ultimately are accessible. They kept my mind at work throughout their long set. This is an intriguing little band that I would be happy to see again some time. They sound like they can cover a lot of interesting sonic territory.
Quote of the Night: From B.Lakes... "Our humor is at B level tonight. Sorry, maybe because it's Thursday. If it was Friday, we'd really be funny."