When I first heard of folk band Lord Huron, I was browsing the aisles of a record store aimlessly until I came across the captivating landscape that covered their debut album Lonesome Dreams. Despite the age-old saying “don’t judge a book (or in this case, an album) by it’s cover,” I liked the image so much that I bought it on a whim, without even listening to the songs. I took it home and spent time with it, and came to realize how honest and beautiful their songs were, and how they all seemed to suspend in a world ruled by the western land, the sea, and everything quaint and meaningful in between. In their sophomore album Strange Trails, Lord Huron exits that blissful, simple world and instead takes time to invent a brand new one, filled with colorful energy and newer techniques.
Strange Trails journeys through this fresh world and explores a more uplifting, tenacious narrative still obsessed with ancient sounding western themes, despite the fact that the album maintains the themes of heartache. The album has a hiccup at the beginning where it feels repetitive, and it doesn’t even truly begin for me until the track “La Belle Fleur Sauvage,” where I can hear their old sound but with a sense of something new and cultivated. In Lonesome Dreams, the instrumentals consisted mostly of acoustic, wistful arrangements, but in Strange Trails, there’s a broader use of instruments, with a layer of reverb to bring it all together. There’s also a more extensive use of experimental styles, like the almost psychedelic, eerie sounding track “The World Ender.” It has a noir feeling that’s absolutely stunning, and the vocals are not at all what you’d expect from a folk band, not that it’s a bad thing. “Meet Me in the Woods” has that quintessential feeling that I got from Lonesome Dreams, and because it’s almost like a blast from the past, it cleanses the palate and brings back that dreamy aesthetic they perfected in the last album. “Fool For Love” also captures the same feeling as Lonesome Dreams single “Time To Run,” while also bringing in some newer techniques to the table. “Way Out There” is declarative and passionate, and shows off both uplifting vocals that mention the title of the album and utilizes delicate, western sounding instrumentals like mandolins and violins, which seem to sum up Strange Trails‘ overall aesthetic.
As I listened to album, I came to notice that the new world that these songs amass is a bigger one for sure, and it takes a few times to truly understand this narrative in full detail. It can be an exhausting listen for new fans who are not familiar with the band’s ambition and passion, but for the many that are familiar for Lord Huron’s love of story-telling and characterization, this album is a wonderfully gorgeous effort.
photo by Josh Sanseri