Lord Huron loves working in three-year intervals. Ever since their 2012 debut album, Lonesome Dreams, the Los Angeles-based indie folk band has kept a similar blueprint in their artistry. Their first project, and their 2015 release, Strange Trails, followed tales of love, loss, and finding oneself in nature.
Lead vocalist Ben Schneider has stated many times that Lord Huron takes pride in spreading stories reminiscent of old folktales and ancient country journeys through the wilderness. Schneider’s writing and direction of story on his past albums masked some of the shortcomings from their previous production. A lot of people like to say that their Mighty EP was their finest piece of work because of Schneider’s influences.
With many calling the band a product of Fleet Foxes, Lord Huron continued on their own quest of finding their footing in alternative folk music. Staying relevant in their genre is a whole other beast, especially in today’s industry. The best course of action for their latest record, Vide Noir, involves Schneider taking the reigns.
This third full length album is their most ambitious to date. After being signed to Universal after Strange Trails and the surprise success of their single “The Night We Met”, Schneider and co. obtained the privilege of working with big names like Dave Fridmann of Tame Impala and MGMT, as well as Sonny Diperri of Warpaint and Animal Collective.
The narration on Vide Noir sounds a lot cleaner and refined. Schneider takes listeners down this spiraling road of heartbreak, redemption, and finally, loss. Vide Noir is French for “black void,” which represents the band’s mindset to perfection.
Lord Huron delivers a more ambitious tone throughout the twelve songs, and even experiments with transitions and earthy instrumentals. Per usual, Schneider starts dreamy with “Lost in Time in Space.” Considered a laid-back country tune, the first track introduces this woman character who disappears into the night. As pristine as the production is, the lyrics don’t bring anything new to the table, especially when talking about the band’s past work.
The record really starts to pick up when the Michigan native starts to sound a lot more urgent, specifically on “Never Ever,” “Ancient Names Pt. 1,” and “Ancient Names Pt. 2.” In the past, Lord Huron carried this lackluster energy that never fully complemented their strong lyricism all that well. In contrast, the three songs above hit on all cylinders.
The lyrics in “Never Ever” have a sense of realization to them (“she was gone without a warning/long before the sunrise”). The band undertakes a more rock-based feel, and it bleeds into the middle portion of the album.
That’s when Schneider hits us with percussion-heavy, otherworldly fifth track, “Wait By the River.” The lead single has the same vibe as “The Night We Met,” but this newer version definitely has a more desperate feel to it (I will beg for forgiveness/ get down on my knees”). The track accomplishes a progression of tone change that occurs for the rest of the project.
The band also has one of its most cohesive and impactful songs to date on “The Balancer’s Eye.” In an interview, Schneider stated that the group created their own myth for this track, and even tries conquering the world through his upbeat lyrics.
Unfortunately, Vide Noir starts to lose some of its steam as it hits the final third of the album. Although there’s an obvious lack of hope on “When the Night is Over,” the song itself doesn’t do much instrumentally. The tune seems out of place with regards to the other 11 songs.
Ironically, the problems at hand become stale by the “Vide Noir” and “Emerald Star.” For a record with so much ambition to begin with, it was surprising to see a thematic decline. The first half of this adventure was so compelling, and then Schneider seemed to lose passion by the end. Maybe that was meant to be considering the character he introduces also loses passion to find this girl.
Either way, Lord Huron takes a step forward, which is a great sign. On the other hand, Schneider went through the same grievances that plagued their last efforts.