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Lord Huron’s Long Lost

Lord Huron’s Long Lost

Due to a glitch in my car’s audio system software, the first time I cued up Radiohead’s recent Kid A Mnesia (review forthcoming), the center-console screen incorrectly displayed the cover for Lord Huron’s latest, Long Lost. The mix-up turned out to be prescient: there’s a lot of Radiohead in Lord Huron, though much of it is below the surface. 

The cover image depicts an upright man holding a guitar. His body is intact, but his head has dissolved into a haze. The implication is that the album will contain some spacey aspects, but that the music will also be grounded in the familiar. Both of those suggestions turn out to be true.  

Lord Huron is an indie-rock foursome led by singer/guitarist Ben Schneider. The group is known for its catchy melodies and for mixing many genres into a unique stew. Long Lost is no exception. You’ll hear a confluence of rock, pop, country, folk, and surfer influences, yet the songs are carried primarily by Schneider’s rhythm guitar and accentuated by the twangy lead guitar work of Tom Renaud. Whatever goes into it, the sound Lord Huron achieves is immediately appealing—a paradox of nostalgia and cutting edge. 

Once you’ve accepted the invitation to the party, you’ll be rewarded with a generous batch of well-crafted, impeccably-played, hook-laden songs. After playing them a few times, I dare you to kick them out of your head. The lyrics, too, are both approachable and rewarding. 

Schneider’s focus on this, the group’s fourth full-length release, is relationships—with others, with places, with oneself—that only look good in the rearview mirror, and maybe weren’t so great even back then. On Twenty Long Years, for instance, Schneider captures this viewpoint concisely: “I made a promise when I left for the coast/Twenty long years ago/I made a life out of chasin’ a ghost/Twenty years takes its toll.” 

So far my description of Long Lost could apply to any number of solid, satisfying recent alt-rock releases. But that’s because I’ve only covered the album’s “grounded” elements. What about the spaciness? Well, that’s where the Radiohead analogy comes in. 

Like Radiohead’s music from the OK Computer/Kid A/Amnesiac era, Long Lost has a larger purpose and is willing to deploy an arsenal of effects to achieve it. Radiohead used snippets of noise, electronic manipulation, synths, and dissonance to transport listeners to a dystopian future. Lord Huron’s goal is also temporal disassociation, though in the opposite direction: to a past that’s only superficially idyllic.  

Accordingly, the band uses variations on Radiohead’s trippy techniques. On Long Lost we get incongruities such as snippets of voices reminiscent of a carnival barker, lots of heavy reverb, and “bent” strings reminiscent of “I Am the Walrus.” Not to mention the 14-minute closing track, “Time’s Blur,” which consists of a chord progression slowed down to unrecognizability. Now that’s spacey. It’s also a track that could have come straight off Radiohead’s Kid A. (Fun fact: if you go to YouTube and search “Radiohead Pyramid Song 800% Slower” you’ll hear the inspiration—and a dead ringer—for the Lord Huron track.)

Together, these manipulations of reality are remarkably successful at conjuring a bygone past that long ago started to rot. The entire effect is similar to watching the late, great director Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show, which dwelt on similar themes. That film’s soundtrack featured 1950s-era country music, yet despite being psychedelically-tinged and decidedly not a country album, many tracks from Long Lost would fit in seamlessly. 

That’s not to say that Long Lost is a downer of an album, for it certainly isn’t. The double-edged words are carried along on uplifting melodies and tap-along rhythms. The playing is passionate, and the gestalt is never dark.     

I wish I could say otherwise, but the sound is mediocre. Disappointingly, in this day and age, the digital downloads and streaming options are all no better than CD resolution. Upper-octave extension suffers, leaving the album sounding a tad muted. Dynamics, as well, are subdued; this music could use a lot more “pop.” I haven’t heard the vinyl, but it’s probably worth exploring. 

But don’t let sonics put you off. Try this music. Its blend of the unexpected and the comfortingly familiar makes Long Lost an album that holds up under heavy rotation. 

Tags: MUSIC ROCK

By Alan Taffel

I can thank my parents for introducing me to both good music and good sound at an early age. Their extensive classical music collection, played through an enviable system, continually filled our house. When I was two, my parents gave me one of those all-in-one changers, which I played to death.

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