“14 Songs From The Unknown” is the tagline across the front of Lord Huron’s sophomore LP, Strange Trails, a phrase that suggests the group is taking a turn towards death metal or songs of sci-fi fan fiction. But really, the album cover is simply playing into a theme, dripping in pulp, whether it’s the faceless subject character, the mossy trees, or the choice of typefaces.
When listening to Lord Huron, it’s important to know that they’re headed by visual artist Ben Schneider, who is responsible for everything you see from Lord Huron, whether it’s the video diaries, album covers, or even the comic book that accompanies the band’s latest album. Yes, that’s right, Strange Trails comes with a comic book, which tells the tale of a fictional motorcycle gang The World Enders, also the subject of the album’s seventh track.
Strange Trails actually plays like a graphic novel. Almost every track leads into the next, like frames from your favorite X-Men comic book, characters, dialogue and action spilling elegantly over from page to page. So really, it’s no surprise that a track like “The World Ender” should have some form of visual accompaniment; the song sounds like it belongs in a Tarantino film (I like to imagine it as Kurt Russell’s theme song in Death Proof).
Lord Huron’s music is obviously what should be the focus of any record they release, but Schneider’s background in the visual arts is incredibly important when discussing his music. Schneider paints figurative pictures with his lyrics and instrumentation. With Strange Trails, we find our hero in a dimly lit, cloud covered apocalyptic world, with skeletons returning from the dead, the sun fading eternally, as the protagonist travels to and from the depths of terrible places.
Strange Trails has already produced Lord Huron’s biggest single to date, “Fool For Love” but there are plenty of other stand out tracks, in fact, “Fool For Love” is part of a span of four tracks that stand out as potential radio hits. The entire album glistens with Schneider’s lyrical ability to pick the listener up and place them in the midst of whatever setting he imagines, and his vocals have found a swagger that elicits comparisons to Elvis Presley. Don’t count out his surrounding members’ harmonizing abilities, either, nearly every song on the album has a pleasing, bronzed overtone to it.
The band’s debut LP, Lonesome Dreams, featured ten songs about one man’s journeys for love, and while the listener is to assume this man is fictional, Schneider found himself trekking from NYC to LA, to follow a girl. So while the tracks were beautiful in their own right, it’s difficult for me to believe that they weren’t somewhat autobiographical as well.
And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that… if anything, it’s endearing: Schneider puts himself into his songs, and to boot, their visual accompaniments. Although Strange Trails may not be as overtly personal as Lonesome Dreams, the band’s sophomore album is equally elegant and poetic. Lord Huron is Ben Schneider, no matter how many fictional characters he creates, and while Schneider may not want to be famous, the characters and settings he creates are destined for stardom.
Stand Out Tracks: “Until The Night Turns” // “Hurricane (Johnnie’s Theme)” // “La Belle Fleur Sauvage” // “Louisa”