Review: Lonesome Dreams, Lord Huron (2012)


Lord Huron is a band that is heavy on locations, and the emotions that go along with them.  Their first effort, Into The Sun, was an EP that evoked the tropical setting of some far away island, a modern day Robinson Crusoe content to explore the splendor of the wild.  It was in the truest sense an independent effort; Ben Schneider (Lord Huron’s namesake) composed, arranged, and played the songs all by himself, layering vocals and atmospheric production into a manifest of the optimism that once sprung forth from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.  This boundless worldly music brought forth another EP, Mighty, again pitting transcendental themes of retrospective youth and love like waves washing up on a shore of an uncharted isle with some of Schneider’s strongest music to date, “Mighty” “Son of A Gun”, “The Stranger” and “When Will I See You Again” once again pitting a lonesome figure against an optimistic world.  

It was around this time that I heard of Lord Huron, through music blogs like Rollo Grady and Everybody Taste, and fell in love with their ability to transform the myriad emotions of the world around them into a boundless epic of persevering hope.  When I saw them in concert, I was even more impressed and besotted by overwhelming emotion (and beer) I sought out the band members and thanked them for their music, to which they replied a LP would be forthcoming in the next year.

What makes a debut LP succeed these days is a band’s ability to coalesce the sound that stood out in their EPs and build upon it.  Both Into The Sun and Mighty showed exceptional promise and vision of a new artist but were perhaps limited by it’s one man tour-de-force.  Both live and on Lonesome Dreams, Lord Huron comes equipped with a full band, and as a result, a fleshed out version of his music.

While Into The Sun and Mighty reflected journeys both external and internal, Lonesome Dreams album cover is a lush background with one stark solitary figure riding into the night
a man still trying to find his way in a vast landscape of the unknown. And so begins “Ends Of The Earth” as a call to empty echoed earth, a call propelled forward.  If the Beach Boys had been more taken by the America of the 1800s than say 1950’s youth, that might give you a picture of how tightly the harmonies are constructed, as the wide open expanse of instrumentation builds behind them.  "Out there’s a world that calls for a girl headin’ out to the unknown" croons Schneider in a prologue to the energetic bandit narrator of “Time to Run” who’s committed an unknown crime simply because “I wanted everybody else in the world to know that / I wanted everyone to know you’re the girl for me." 

Schneider had a specific vision in mind when he set about writing the themes to this album  When I first started working on the record, I was trying to make an anthology of old western tales. I thought it’d be interesting to look at it from that lens, so I came up with this fictional author who wrote all those stories. And that’s George Ranger Johnson.“  If his album covers and music videos are any indication, Schneider is an extremely visual artist, so the creation of a whole separate persona to take credit for his influences is only a natural extension of his work. (The music video for "Time To Run” evokes a Technicolor Western, complete with title credits and obscure language subtitles)

At their worst, Schneider and company sound like Bon Iver decided to record For Emma, Forever Ago in the Serengeti which is not a bad thing at all. The arrangements shimmer and sparkle with a tropical tinge, a horizon not burdened by buildings but sunsets. This natural longing, this environmental escapism is central to Lord Huron’s heart. Their music is not the sounds of the urban jungle, frenetic and artificially fueled, but rather reflective of the natural sunlight, a warm enveloping sound that fills your heart with unbridled hope.

Schneider is lucky to be blessed with such an emotive voice, both hopeful and world-weary, which befits many of the songs on Lord Huron’s debut like “The Ghost On The Shore” and “Brother (Last Ride)” and the expansive, sometimes droning instrumentation of this collection of songs lends a worldly flavor to the western narrative flavored lyrics.  While it is an intriguing strength of the band as a whole, it also led to my disappointment with the results of “The Man Who Lives Forever” where the melody line gets lost in the Eastern flavor, where live it is dominated by intricate guitar lines and overlapping melodies.

Still, Lonesome Dreams is an overwhelmingly strong debut that showcases Lord Huron’s singular vision, astounding vocal harmonies and epic melodies that are as transportive as they are expansive.  

Top Picks:

I Will Be Back One Day

The Ghost On The Shore

Time To Run

Ends Of The Earth

Album Rating:




Lord Huron’s debut album, Lonesome Dreams, comes out tomorrow (10/9) and if you’ve somehow missed the album stream on NPR, you should probably go ahead and listen to it now

Grab it on IAMSOUND

James Vincent McMorrow is a Irish singer-songwriter whose Early in the Morning  album is full of the hushed intimacy that brought the inevitable comparisons to Bon Iver’s debut album (he even locked himself away for 6 months, though this time in a cabin by the seaside) but McMorrow sticks to a more organic arrangement. While Bon Iver’s vocal arrangement’s bordered on ethereal, McMorrow’s gorgeous twists and turns have the organic tenacity of an R&B soul man(he modeled his vocal stylings after Donny Hathaway, a man too few know) .  "This Old Dark Machine" boasts a great melody that could easily have been a Fleet Foxes or Mumford and Sons arrangement, but McMorrow wins the audience over with his sheer honesty. If it was all a marketing ploy, I’ve rarely seen it better disguised.

Check out the free download below

“This Old Dark Machine"  is the sixth track on James Vincent McMorrow’s debut album Early in the Morning.

This Old Dark Machine- James Vincent McMorrow

New Music Sunday! Vol. II- Voxtrot, The xx, Coconut Records

Voxtrot

Voxtrot sounds like its a band that didn’t forget the eighties.  But this isn’t a bad thing, rather they come off as the Smith’s heir apparent, with dashes of The Strokes thrown in.  Ear candy for the music fan who wishes more bands were like The Smiths, and ear candy for the music fan that loves a good early Motown meets classic pop melody.

The Start of Something

the warm somewhat unclearly recorded vocals only makes this song more endearing, and it does give you that warm feeling of starting to fall in love, euphoric.

Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives

Excellent transition from a reverbed opening into clanging chords, great guitar and drum work on here and just goes to show the bands ability to stretch their style.

Kid Gloves

Yet another variation and undeniably catchy

Berlin, Without Return

This song stands up to some of Spoons best, great build, great arrangment, simple and beautiful

The xx

The xx is a very intriguing band in the way they develop their songs, arrangements play a huge role in what makes them good, and the dual female and male lead singers only help their cause

Basic Space

theres a lot of space in the arrangement as the title might suggest, and the harmony betweeen Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft is sublime.  Croft has a beautiful achy voice that just cuts right into you

Crystalized

Ever wonder what it would sound like if Thom Yorke had a female counterpart to sing with in Radiohead, I do, and this gives you a little glimpse.

Heart Skipped A Beat

It’s amazing they manage to take drum loops and make them sound like they fit nowhere else but in their songs, and this is a great duet

Coconut Records

Coconut Records is the brainchild of actor Jason Schwartzman, yes that actor who played that annoying kid in Rushmore and is also known for playing drums for ‘that band that played the theme song to The O.C.‘ (Phantom Planet). Don’t let that dissuade you though, Schwartzman has a knack for crafting pop melodies, and he plays all the instruments on the record as well.  Think of  Elliot Smith except more upbeat.  Schwartzman fully deserves to be recognized as a musician and an actor, not an actor/musician, because there is a difference.

Drummer

Off of Davy, his latest release, this song mocks his fame as a musician, and its got a great melody to boot

Saint Jerome

Somehow Schwartzman came upon the perfect meld of sound between his voice, guitar and piano, sure the arrangement is nothing groundbreaking but it sounds fresh in his hands

Microphone

He certainly has his own sound but his knack for making great pop melodies reminds me of Paul McCartney and thats not a stretch

West Coast

Off of his first album Nighttiming, everything about this song is perfect from the synthesizer to the organic backing instruments to his beautiful background harmonies.