Review Summary: For those who guess they just weren’t made for these times.
My first exposure to Lord Huron was from a freshman level philosophy course at my university. My professor was a younger guy and quite the character; he wore tweed blazers with patches on the elbows, and meticulously cuffed jeans. He was clearly an introvert (and not really built for teaching), because as soon as he stepped in front of the class he would freeze, with a look of pure terror in his eyes.
But above all, his defining characteristic was that he was a diehard Lord Huron fan. He always made sure to show up to lecture ten minutes early, so that he could have LH playing from the speakers as the students walked in. His passion was endearing; he was never forceful about his fandom, exposing us subliminally before class, and only talking about it casually if we asked. It was more that the students developed an interest in LH organically from seeing our professors excitement, rather than us being forced to listen.
I paint this picture of my awkward, yet wholesome philosophy professor because it is essential to understanding Long Lost
. LH knows exactly who their audience is, and plays off those tropes with slight satire, rather than pandering. Given the “I guess I just wasn’t made for these times” vibe of every LH fan ever, they contextualized this album within an old-timey radio show, complete with a Colonel Sanders-esque host. But this remnant doesn’t stand on its own, it is surrounded on all sides by deep atmosphere and lush orchestration, and this is where the album is meant to shine, what it is meant to be loved for. The remnants of old are the symbols and set pieces.
The instrumentation on Long Lost
mirrors that idea. The most obvious instruments and melodic ideas, the ones that jump out on a cursory listen, are steeped in traditional styles of folk, blues and country. These ideas are also very simple, usually playing a role or setting the tone rather than carrying the track. My biggest nitpick with the album is in the repetitious bluesy lead guitars, which frequently reprise the chorus melody. Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash certainly used leads in a similar fashion, so it fits the genre, just a minor gripe.
If all Long Lost
had to offer was tradition, it would make for a boring, unnecessary listen. But tradition only scratches the surface, the atmosphere in which this “long lost” time is captured is where the magic lies. Haunting strings and abrasive synths drenched in reverb accompany cheerful songwriting. Even the cheerful songwriting breaks down into self-loathing if you really hone in on the lyrics. All things considered, they feel as critical of the prairie lifestyle as they are reminiscent of it. Lines like “You got holes in your clothes, booze on your breath. You look like hell and you smell like death, uh huh” encapsulate their intended meaning. Though tradition has been beaten down and bastardized, it’s still kicking.
Maybe Lord Huron view themselves as the champions and torchbearers of a time long lost, for better or worse. Their music calls back to a time when music was more high-brow and organic; made for the pontificators of the world. Made for my freshmen year philosophy teacher. But here’s the thing: I actually enjoyed his class enough to enroll in more philosophy classes. And I hated every other class I took; the department was full of ‘smartest in the room,’ ‘uses jargon exclusively,’ ‘I understand the meaning of life,’ types of pretentious assholes. My nervous wreck of a professor was the only one I felt I learned anything from. Our discussions were down-to-earth, topical, divisive and flat-out interesting. I think that says something about his favorite band.