Originally a low key DIY solo project for Ben Schneider, time and a burgeoning reputation has seen Lord Huron develop into a full band sound, though, even back in the early days his self-released EPs made it clear he wasn’t another of those cabin in the woods types. His voice may have a similarly grainy tone reminiscent of Fleet Foxes and, perhaps, Bon Iver, but those formative songs with their tropical folk pop sound indicated a more expansive dynamic and a keen ear for a catchy tune.
That bore fruit on his first full length album, Lonesome Dreams, although this did have its fair share of washed-out balladry, filtered through an echoey haze. On Strange Tails this has now blossomed into a full orchard of radio friendly, hugely infectious melodies and hooks, drenched in reverb and with punchy arrangements and instrumentation.
That said, it’s actually bookended by two tracks that play to the more shimmery end of the spectrum with Schneider’s distant, echoing vocals with (lyrically slightly disturbing) break-up number Love Like Ghosts (though, to be fair, this does flex its musical muscles as it progresses) and the weary closing slow waltz The Night We Met. Likewise, The Yawning Grave reprises those Fleet Fox comparisons.
For the most, however, although themes of heartache, loneliness, searching and death prevail across the largely story-telling material, things are much more full-blooded and rock n roll with several very notable influences. Buddy Holly’s ghost hovers over Fool For Love with both the Not Fade Away rhythm and Schneider’s vocal while Meet Me In The Woods channels Springsteen’s I’m On Fire (the Boss is also evident on Louisa while both artists feed into the choppy rock n roll shuffle of Until The Night Turns), La Belle Fleur Sauvage adopts a Johnny Cash chug and both Dead Man’s Hand and tumbling chiming guitar line and handclapping Hurricane (Johnnie’s Theme), the album’s most poppily infectious track, have hints of the Everlys.
Elsewhere The World Ender has a Morricone meets voodoobilly rhythm and Cursed rides a rich, twangy guitar, which goes some way to alleviating the feel that, in the closing stretch, the band are slightly retreading what’s gone before. But such observation in no way diminishes the energy or appeal of an album whose trails and pathways are well worth enthusiastically exploring and which, given the exposure it deserves, should see the band step out of the cult shadows and into the mainstream Americana spotlight.
Review by: Mike Davies
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Touring the UK & Ireland in June 2015