Lord Huron - Strange Trails
I loved Lord Huron the minute I heard the song 'Ends of the Earth.' I instantly thought of views from mountains in the midwest and feeling an overwhelming sense of peacefulness. Lord Huron is approaching the overly saturated folk scene with an authentic and actually creative spin. When their newest album, Strange Trails, came out, my expectations were absurdly high. What I didn’t expect was a sound reminiscent of classical country music storytelling, reminding me of Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger. When the album starts with Ben Schneider’s vocals, you realize you’re getting ready to set on a journey through Strange Trails and don’t know where it will take you.
Throughout the album, the drums accompany the spooky saloon sound with a beat that reminds me of watching fence poles pass while driving through west Texas - consistent and mesmerizing. Slow, constant sounds are mixed in with beat-driven chord changes creating an eerie and buoyant base for the album. They create complex patterns filled with haunting reverb and sassy breakdowns. As you get to 'Dead Man’s Hand,' you realize that Strange Trails has a main character: a man whose story surrounds an unrequited love. It’s depressing and beautiful and inspiring. 'La Belle Fleur Sauvage' slows you down a little bit and paints a picture of the woman in the story. She’s brutal and not many come back whole from their pursuit of her. For me, the climax of the album is 'Fool For Love,' where the main character comes head-to-head with another man competing for her love. The song is victorious and you expect it to end in his favor. It’s clear that he’s lost by the end and it takes you back to the words in the previous song: “I’d give it all to love that girl.”
The album gets all kinds of spooky with 'The World Ender,' where the vocals lower and the musical quality loses some of its brightness. The harmonies sound like a ghost chorus while the lead sounds as if he’s shaking. The vibe is dark and regretful for the next couple of songs and then seamlessly fades into 'Frozen Pines' where it picks up with a straight beat. The lyrics are still thoughtful and lonely, bringing to mind the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. 'Cursed' has an angry tone that accuses the woman in the story of cursing the main character. The drums drop out perfectly when he sings “what kind of magic is this? I was doomed by our first kiss.”
As you near the end, the vibe changes with an emphasis on vocals and lead guitar. The guitar in 'Way Out There' is strikingly sad and beautiful - crisp and sustaining at the same time. It blends into the background when rhythm and drums come in and elevates the emotion in the vocals. The next track is somewhat reserved with the drums being replaced with strange percussions and plucky guitar. The final track, 'The Night We Met,' is filled with haunting vocals that put a voice to the female character in this story. It starts with just electric guitar and vocals, then it crescendos when Schneider cries “I had all and then most of you, some and now none of you.” The rest of the song feels like a regretful, beautiful love ballad and is my favorite on the album.
Even if folk isn’t your thing, Strange Trails is worth a listen. Start with an open mind and immerse yourself in the story they’re telling. Not only is the album full of honesty and depth, but the musicianship is performed in a way that you can feel the character of the musicians. It’s one of the most truthful albums I’ve ever heard and reminds me of why I love music.
Michigan’s Ben Schneider is the heart of Los Angeles based Lord Huron.
Other members include musicians that Schneider has been playing with since high school.
Check out this video for an interview with Ben Schneider about the writing process for Strange Trails.
In addition to art for each song, Lord Huron released a comic book to accompany the album.
Ben Schneider talks about how he relates his visual arts projects with music in this interesting interview.
by Amber Harris