A celebratory cabaret of genres, stories + characters
Lucy Harbron
11:05 19th May 2021

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Stepping out of the woods and into a vaster landscape of space and time, Lord Huron’s newest release Long Lost is a celebratory cabaret of genres, stories and characters. Beloved for their harmony-heavy hits, including the haunting 'The Night We Met', their fourth album levels up all their previous work, placing the act of making music right at the centre of focus.

At a time when external inspiration is hard to come by and we are unable to go off and travel to find it, Lord Huron found tales in familiarity. Turning their studio into a main character and exploring the subject through months of livestream shows unveiling the world of Whispering Pines, Long Lost is a kind of imagined variety show. Conjuring up all the ghosts of sessions past, the band imagine who might have been there before them, and in turn have created a kind of homage to music; making it, watching it, loving it. 

Changing genres and tones as they move through characters, Long Lost is a clever take on a concept album, showing the depth and breadth of the band’s skill as they move seamlessly from traditional country on tracks like 'Love Me Like You Used To', to through-and-through indie on 'Not Dead Yet', even into Beach Boys-Esque surfer corners on 'At Sea'. Hitting really key musical references and touching base at the heart of several genres, Long Lost has the feeling of a perfectly-curated playlist, walking you through the range of inspiration that’s always been behind Lord Huron’s music, but now letting it speak for itself. From it’s rockabilly hip-swayers to heartbreaking ballads, this record has the same perfect composition that’s a given for Lord Huron release, full of recurring imagery and moments of harmonic climax that the band are loved for, but it’s infused with so much more fun.

Throughout, you get the sense that the band are emulating the work of icons that have inspired them forever, getting to briefly step outside of their own lives and into the shoes of a character. This feeling of play is seen clearly in the creativity of the Live From Whispering Pines videos; a real must-watch for the album. Seemingly letting their imagination run wild, Long Lost comes along with a whole narrative back story, a ghost narrator in the form of Tubbs Tarbell and a cast of characters each with their own literature. Having been given the time free from the distraction of tours, Long Lost is a complete story and vision, a fully realised world that allows you to decide how deeply you interact with it.

Because, of course, you don’t have to: this is an album at the end of the day! Clearly aware of this, the narrative element never pulls away from the music too much. Instead, the musical interludes and intros from Tubbs can serve as nothing but bridges from song to song, never long or loud enough to be offensive to the casual listener. Studying the characters and diving into the narrative isn’t a requirement here, even without all that, Long Lost remains a beautiful record.

At its essence, this album deals with reflection and the way memories morph with distance. Interested in approaching situations and emotions from a side view, frontman and songwriter Ben Schneider has a real skill for writing songs that are both packed with emotion and minimal in style. A real stand-out moment comes on 'I Lied', a track shared with the beautiful, classically country voice of Alison Ponthier. Flipping the ballad on its head and writing a bittersweet track guiltily celebrating the end of love, the song is a perfect summary of the wonder of this album; combining traditional instrumentals with genre-defying twists. Using what Ben calls "musical shorthand", the record tricks you into bringing forth all the emotions and memories you have tied up in a particular genre or era, sometimes shredding up what you know and sometimes just letting you sit in the nostalgia, reflecting on your own experience with music and memory. 

Somehow making this merge of genres and characters flow, Ben’s voice floats through this record like a silk ribbon walking you through a max. Perfectly suited to the vintage tones of the album, flowing between gentle acoustic tracks into full lung crooning, his voice and the vocal symphony built from his harmonies has an indescribable quality to it, able to make you get into your feels at a moment’s notice. So full yet so gentle, the timelessness of his country-tinged vocal ties Long Lost together, staying firmly in control of the world he’s created.

Wandering out of the woods of their previous albums and into the city, the variety of genres, echoing applaud sounds and singalong reprises will have you pining for open mic nights. With the atmosphere of a Nashville music bar sometime in the '70s, Long Lost captures the joy of music, the way it plays into our memory and its power in our lives. Leaving behind the folk space they inhabited, Lord Huron take huge steps forward on Long Lost, in every and all direction across all genre lines. I guess the only question, is what’ll be next to come out of Whispering Pines?

Long Lost arrives 21 May via Whispering Pines.

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Photo: Press