Lord Huron clearly feel their musical direction is nowhere near fractured – and without further ado Strange Trails, their second album, picks up where the 2012 debut Lonesome Dreams left off.
Yet now there is extra firepower to the project, for Lord Huron is now a band rather than Ben Schneider’s augmented solo project. This change does not yet make itself known in the music, but bodes well for future developments.
Strange Trails revisits the wide open vistas and optimistic musical outlook of Lonesome Dream, and once again the listening experience is akin to spending the night under the stars on the prairie. Schneider builds on his strengths here, keeping the melodic strength and songwriting craft while introducing more noticeable elements of vulnerability.
There is a loose concept behind this album, Schneider writing it as ‘an anthology of weird fiction – a new collection of tales from the world introduced on Lonesome Dreams’. That world has a reverberant sound, the echoes of the vocals coming back to the listener as though reflected from huge rocks in a valley. The optimistic melodies bear occasional parallels to The War On Drugs – a comparison worth pursuing, for the two acts share an inner resolve to their writing. La Belle Fleur Sauvage and Meet Me In The Woods are the best examples of these moments – winsome, windswept and each boasting a memorable tune.
The signs of vulnerability are welcome, adding a necessary darker side to the normally breezy Lord Huron approach. The Yawning Grave tells a colder, darker, tale, while even in the opening Love Like Ghosts, Schneider is imploring, “come on baby, hurt me tonight”.
To this end, occasionally the wish remains Lord Huron would vary their delivery a bit more. Couplets like “I had a vision the world was ending” (Until The Night Turns) and “holy darkness got a hold on me” (Meet Me In The Woods) occupy the same emotional plain as “I get a thrill out of playin’ with fire” (Hurricane).
Yet this should not detract from another rather special night spent outdoors in the West Coast desert heat. As Lord Huron develops into a band, presumably its members will have more creative input – and that should only enhance the potential already evident from Schneider and his vision. Album number two will do just fine – but album number three could well be an outright winner.