Lonesome Dreams by Lord Huron (Iamsound Records, 2012. 45 minutes)
Lord Huron is an American indie folk group from Los Angeles. They are signed to Iamsound Records and released their debut album in 2012.
To Innovate or to Perfect: That is the Question?
What’s better: the innovator or the perfector? We are often wowed when an artist appears, utilizing a new technique. Ernest Hemingway popularized short, staccato sentences where the content left out is as important and meaningful as what remains. However, since his time, many authors have used this technique, some perhaps to better effect.
Likewise, consider Jimi Hendrix. His use of heavy distortion and lightning riffs revolutionized the sound of guitar. But is he the best guitarist ever? Not by skill, that’s for sure.
So when a critic approaches an album, especially when it holds many similarities to others, how should she assess it? Will the replica never live up to the innovation? Or does mimicry create perfection?
I tend to lean toward the second option. While I appreciate innovative ideas, I will never submit to the notion of the first mover equaling the best.
Lord Huron’s Lonesome Dreams offers an interesting case study for this phenomenon. Sonically, Lonesome Dreams draws from the source of Fleet Foxes. Acoustic heavy, harmony rich, and topically related to the great outdoors, Lord Huron can easily be defined as Fleet Foxes 2.0. Much like Mumford & Sons or Phillip Phillips, it is clear Lord Huron found this recording opportunity because the market wants more of the retro, urban folk sound.
A Fictitious Story of Fiction
Thematically, Lonesome Dreams is based around the work of a fictitious author named, George Ranger Johnson who “wrote” adventure stories with the Wild West as a backdrop. While it is odd that Lord Huron decided to craft this batch of songs around a fake author (to the point that they’ve made a website for the author), references to the big sky and wandering the open plains fit the tone this album well.
Additionally, many of the songs reference a woman and the distance between this cowboy figure and his beloved.
In “Time to Run,” Lord Huron uses an up-tempo swinging beat and quick fire lyrics to express the thrill of the wild as well as regret for leaving a loved one behind.
“It’s time to run; they’ll string me up for all I’ve done / I’m going soon; gonna leave tonight by the light of the moon / I did it all for you; well I hope you know the lengths I’ve gone to / What’s a man to say? They’ll be looking for me; should be on my way”
Further, the beautiful “She Lit a Fire” horripilates as it ponders the way a beautiful relationship can bring warmth on a cold night under the moon and how it can spur people to move mountains.
“I’ve been through the desert / And I’ve been across the sea / I’ve been walking through the mountains / I’ve wandered through the trees / For her / I have been trying to find her / Want to give what I got / She lit a fire / But now she’s in my every thought”
If You’ve Improved the Product, That’s a Good Thing Right?
Interestingly, the lyrics of Lord Huron and Fleet Foxes hold many similarities. They both seek to find their power in setting; they both avoid specifics hoping to paint in wide strokes. While Fleet Foxes’ lyrics might aim for a slightly more existential path, I wouldn’t say the words of one are superior to the other.
Yet musically, Lord Huron has taken the Fleet Foxes style and bolstered it. Melodically, the tunes stick in your head and flow with a beauty and grace. Again, Fleet Foxes writes great melodies, but the organization, catchiness, and movement from Lonesome Dreams just sounds better.
Musically, the length by which the bass player and the drummer work together is impressive. The subtleties of their rhythm transform excellent songs into truly great ones. The guitar counter-melodies are simple but elegant, centered but perfectly fitting for the song’s structure.
In all, Lonesome Dreams is a great record. Yes, it sounds like Fleet Foxes. But that’s not a bad thing because I believe Lord Huron has taken the innovative idea and made it better. If you are a fan of good melodies and the folk style, check out Lonesome Dreams.
Verdict: 5 out of 5