Lord Huron – Lonesome Dreams

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Lord Huron’s Lonesome Dreams is quite possibly the most fully realized, full-length debut record 0f 2012. Its highs come organically – in touch with the truest, most heartfelt emotions of man, and they are delivered with pristine beauty and an emphasis on the glory of nature. Lord Huron have an uncommon talent for creating songs that offer the very essence of what it is to be human – embracing wonder, finding love, fighting death, cherishing honor –while granting them an almost heroic beauty extracted from the mountains, valleys, forests, deserts and lakes that have blessed mankind with their beauty for ages.

A rich debut as rewarding as Lonesome Dreams doesn’t just spontaneously originate. There is always a backstory (i.e. Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago), although Lord Huron don’t seem to be particularly interested in presenting such a narrative at the moment. A recent profile of the band by the Boston Globe provided a telling anecdote of the frustration of searching for a fairly standard image of Lord Huron’s singer and songwriter, Ben Schneider. The writer of the piece, James Reed, compares the images to watercolor paintings with soft focus and grainy texture. Schneider answers the comparison by saying, “I had to fight for that.” He goes on to say, “It supports the narrative of the whole project, just creating this universe it all exists in. Part of that universe is a haze, a mystery that hangs over everything. It’s important for me to maintain that.”

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Ben Schneider's basks in the hazy universe of Lord Huron's narrative

Schneider’s bio is routinely pared down to a single sentence of modest upbringing and yearning for adventure that sounds like the introduction to a classic fable: Michigan born and bred, but with an itching to travel the seas. Deeper digging will tell you Schneider first started playing music as a young boy, when he’d play songs on his father’s acoustic guitar around a campfire on Lake Huron. Once older, he lived in France and New York, before settling in Los Angeles. On a fortuitous trip back home to Michigan in 2010, he found inspiration in the Great Lake of his youth.  Schneider’s songs came to life, and the lake became the namesake of his music. (In “Ghost of the Shore,” he sings, “I’ll lie where I land, let my bones turn to sand / I was born on the lake and I don’t want to leave it / Every eye on the coast evermore.”)

Schneider is joined by Mark Barry (percussion, vocals), Miguel Briseno (bass, percussion), Brett Farkas (guitar, vocals) and Tom Renaud (guitar, vocals) to form Lord Huron as a band. As noted earlier, first works as majestic as Lonesome Dreams don’t spring up overnight. I initially learned of Lord Huron back in April of 2011, when they opened for The Rural Alberta Advantage in Indianapolis. The band accomplished the terribly rare feat of completely winning over an audience without a hit single or a song more than a handful of those in attendance knew. Lord Huron’s likeable stage presence and their Fleet Foxes meets Avett Brothers (my initial summation) sound had my heart on first listen. I was intrigued enough to pursue their music, scouring my favorite local record store (Luna Music) on multiple occasions for Lord Huron releases.  It wasn’t until after several fruitless attempts that I realized the band hadn’t even released a debut album.

Eighteen months later, that coveted debut is in my possession, and Lonesome Dreams answers all of that searching with ten superior songs of yearning and wonder brought to life with alluring hooks and pastoral, stirring arrangements.  Schneider is an unapologetic seeker, and the themes at the heart of Lonesome Dreams cherish that romantic wanderlust and steep it in companionship, nature, beauty and mortality.

“Ends of the Earth” opens the album with a spirited harmony that could rank alongside Robin Pecknold’s best, and the listener is off and running on Lonesome Dreams’ transcendent journey within seconds. The chorus of “There’s a world that was meant for our eyes to see / To the ends of the earth would you follow me? / If you won’t I must say my goodbyes to thee,” verses like “I was ready to die for you, baby / Doesn’t mean I’m ready to stay,” and Lord Huron’s immaculate playing get deep inside your bones and, like the truly best songs, have the power to influence your disposition. Is Lord Huron lifting a veil, or are they obscuring the pedestrian monotony of daily life with enchanting music? That is for you to you to decide; what matters most is you take the journey with them. The imagery in these songs is tailored for any Americans with“ Simplify” stickers on the bumpers of their Priuses and Volvos.  The truth is lesser bands would settle for sloganeering and shtick; Lord Huron, on the other hand, have the power to organically enrich your life through song. Whether you’re a Thoreau acolyte, a wanderer, or an old-soul romantic chained to a desk, Lonesome Dreams can take you on a blessed journey and teach you something about yourself.

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Lord Huron evoke timelessness with majestic songs inspired by nature and longing

First single “Time to Run” may be idyllic folk with world music influences, but its hook is as radio-ready as anything off Peter Gabriel’s iconic So or Paul Simon’s Graceland. An infectious “whoa-ooah” harmony surfs a wave of handclaps while Schneider sings, “I wanted everybody else in the world to know it / I wanted everyone to know you’re the girl for me.”  He traverses similar, fertile soil on “She Lit A Fire,” when he chronicles his travels across desert, sea, mountains and trees in search of an elusive girl. “Where could that girl have gone? / She left no trail but I cannot fail / I will find her / She left no trace but I know her face / I will find her.”

The wondrous landscape of the world outside his walls charts the course for nearly all of Schneider’s journeys, whether in pursuit of love or pondering death.  The august arrangement of “Brother (Last Ride)” and Native American-influenced harmonies evoke a distinct spirit of the lands. “How many miles have we wandered / Under the sky, chasing our fear? Some kind of trouble is coming / We don’t know when and we don’t know what / I will stand by you, brother / ‘til the daylight comes or I’m dead and gone.” 

Lord Huron – “Brother (Last Ride)”

Album standout “The Man Who Lives Forever” depicts the pursuit of everlasting love in a stubborn resistance to the death that eventually becomes every man’s fate. Schneider sings, “You say a life without end wouldn’t have any meaning / The journey to death is the point of our being / Well, the point of my life is to be with you, baby / And there ain’t enough time in the life that they gave me.”  He goes on to sing of a childish dream to be “The Man Who Lives Forever.” We cheer him on, sing along, and begin to believe that such a heroic victory may even be possible by the time all is said and done.

With a resplendent arrangement that is equal parts Enrico Morricone and Fleet Foxes, album closer “In the Wind” examines the patience in such an unconditional love. At the outset, Schneider sings, “You’ve been gone for a long long time / You’ve been in the wind, you’ve been on my mind / You are the purest soul I’ve ever known in my life.” Deeper into the song, he sings, “Years have gone but the pain is the same / I have passed my days by the sound of your name/…Death is a wall but it can’t be the end / You are my protector and my best friend / Well they say that you’re gone and that I should move on / I wonder: how do they know, baby?” You don’t have to be a Thoreau fanatic to understand the pain, yearning, and immense heroism in Schneider’s lyricism here.

Where others would simply make such an easy heartbreak ballad, Lord Huron fashions something far grander and nutritious to the heart. Schneider turns loss of love into genuine heroism (perhaps naïve, but entirely human) through willingness of eternal longing (think Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera.) As in his finest moments of clarity, he looks to nature for the best answers. “When you left I was far too young / to know you’re worth more than the moon and the sun / You are still alive when I look to the sky in the night.”

Standing up to everybody who tells you that you’re in love with the wrong person and that you should move on takes guts. Facing all of them head-on and telling them they don’t rightfully know the answer is heroic (if often misinformed or naïve). Being adamant for the long haul and citing the wonder of nature as your reasoning takes an altogether different kind of heroism. However, fashioning all of those deeply human emotions into an examination of the heart and the nature beyond our doors is Lord Huron’s greatest and most necessary achievement; that Lord Huron has imprinted that life-altering journey into glorious songs full of soaring harmonies and evocative arrangements the first time out of the gates is astounding. Such is a winning formula is hard to imagine growing old or lacking in power. If the ten phenomenal songs that comprise Lonesome Dreams draw chart an accurate blueprint for the voyage ahead, Lord Huron should be lighting necessary fires in our hearts and turning our eyes to the skies for years to come.

Lonesome Dreams is out now (released Oct. 9) via IAMSOUND.


Lord Huron – “Time to Run” (Official Video)

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