My Huron Connection

Review of Strange Trails by Lord Huron

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We have Pandora on almost perpetually at our home on the TV, as just an easy way to put on background music that puts the whole house in a better mood.  We have several favorite stations, but “Indie Folk Revival” is the one that seems to promote the most harmony in our domestic midst.  I don’t usually pay much attention to what particular artist or song is playing at a given moment, unless something stands out and piques my interest.  Over and over again I found myself enjoying a song so much I would look up to the TV screen – and realize that once again, it was Lord Huron.

This isn’t one of my formal album reviews, suggested by a reader and therefore full of comparisons and my basic attempts at picking apart the elements of each song.  This is not my attempt to describe a musical experience on paper for you; rather this is just a summary of my own recent natural exploration – a genuine interest in a new album that sort of organically evolved, as I noticed this artist again and again popping up around me.  I simply must share this!

Huron – maybe I was just drawn to the band’s name, because of where I’m from?   Wikipedia revealed that while this artist was now based in LA (I knew this couldn’t be the whole story), the band was actually named after childhood visits to Lake Huron and memories of good times around the campfire.  Hello, ME TOO.  It wasn’t just the familiar name that evoked this warm response for me, because so often I was sucked into the music itself, and was loving it – before I even looked up to see who the artist was.  I couldn’t resist checking out the new 2015 album Strange Trails on Spotify, and I was richly rewarded by what I found there.

The first track called “Love like Ghosts” is gentle; a little bit echoey and vintagey but still great and not at all cliché for this indie-folk genre.  The second track is really upbeat and punchy with its traditional catchiness, before slipping into a third song called “Dead Man’s Hand” that just really reminds me of Pablo Honey –era Radiohead for some reason.  We’re back to the upbeat again though by Track #4, with a song that it is a little California, and a little surf-y; with happy harmonies and a staccato delivery that just might be vocalist and founder Ben Schneider’s signature singing style.  The music is so good, you’ll find you aren’t too annoyed with lyrics like “Oh Little Darlin’ don’t you look charmin’?” because you are too busy singing along.

Track #5 is catchy and recognizable, one I easily remembered from the Pandora station – revealing Ben’s time spent in France with its gentle title, “La Belle Fleur Sauvage”.  Track #6 has backing vocals that will remind you of Buddy Holly, I kid you not!  By Track #7 “The World Ender” we’re in a space that is a little darker, with Ben singing something like “they put me in the ground, but I’m back from the dead” if I recall the lyrics correctly.  This again features a driving, bullet-like delivery on the vocals, but this time in a minor key.   “Meet me in the Woods” is reminiscent of Keane, with the underlying piano that gives an emotional basis to the song.  I noticed that at times the tracks on this album seem a bit similar to and repetitive of each other – but I still like them all so I don’t mind.

#11 is a little mellower, with a lilting but still rhythmic delivery.  There are great harmonies on this track – I recognize this as one of the songs I first heard on the Pandora rotation.  “Way Out There” is next, as more of a ballad, with minimal drums on the intro, and an instrumental focus throughout.  The wind instruments used give it a folky, almost Celtic feel.  The next track, “Louisa” is dance-y again, with lots of syncopation and a Beach-Boys-esque chorus that you will enjoy.  This is definitely one of my favorites on the album!

The last track, called “The Night We Met” presents itself calmly with graceful arpeggios. By now you’ve noticed that Ben’s voice is mellow, deep, rich, and sweet – like a modern version of Townes Van Zandt mixed with the good parts of Conor Oberst (without the grating wobbly vibrato).  He has a way of allowing the closing vowels of each word to drop off at the end of each phrase, giving a lively, clipped effect to his way of singing that goes along so well with the instrumentation of each piece.

The Wikipedia bio that I found earlier went on to say that the Lord Huron singer started out in his Michigan hometown, before going to study art at U of M and finishing his degree in France.  Wow.  PLUS I love this guy’s songwriting – I’m pretty sure in another life he was my soulmate!  At any rate I can objectively recommend this album based on my music-specific comments above, so even if you aren’t from Michigan, you don’t speak French and you don’t have cherished memories from Lake Huron like I am/do – you will get something out of this beautiful music.

Link to preview tracks on Google Play: Google Play – Lord Huron

Link to purchase album on Amazon: Amazon – Lord Huron

 

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Hanging in there…

“Hangman” by Worth Taking*

Hangman

The band is called Worth Taking, and while you may not have heard these guys before, you’ll be no stranger to their sound. The band’s website story states that “Jerod McBrayer listened to Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed America and it changed his life” – you get the idea? This is your power-punk band with expectedly energetic guitars, and gentle vocals that are little bit like Death Cab meets – somebody even cuter than Cutie? This is my first opportunity to preview a 2016 release in the New Year – their new album called Hangman comes out next month.

Before I had finished experiencing the first track, I could envision myself enjoying the whole album – a little Teenage FanClub, a little Blink 182, a little LIT; with a sprinkle of shoegaze or indie-folk style (a la aforementioned Death Cab For Cutie). There’s nothing too serious here, but there’s also nothing seriously wrong with simply enjoying a positive and upbeat commute soundtrack for your daily routine! And have I mentioned that I like the band name – Worth Taking. Worth taking… where? Worth taking…seriously? You’ll have to listen (or read further) to really find out.

The first track, called “Honestly”, honestly opens like you’d expect a punk album to start – as a slightly whiny punk-rawk kid voice blurts out “I’m not a liar, but I know I’ve lied!” This reminds me a little of “Sugar, We’re Going Down” by FallOut Boy. There’s even a pleasantly melodic chorus – which is nothing you haven’t heard, but also nothing to stop you from listening to more. If you enjoy this kind of music, it can be refreshing to have a variety of new bands to choose from every now and then, so don’t count these guys out!

“There’s A Light” is track #2, and I’ll think you’ll find this is like a vintage REM song. There’s a sort of 90s-esqe paranoid tribal sound that is actually really good, coming across aggressive guitars. Add in some innocuous and yet not annoying lyrics; the just seem to fit in with the music and there you have it: “I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel / But it’s so small”. The radio-friendly pop-punk sound is back in full force on “Counting On You” – which could almost be the theme song for a show like Friends, it has such general appeal: “I’m counting on you to show me the way / I can’t see tomorrow but I still have today / I’ll keep moving forward try to enjoy the light / I’ll embrace uncertainty come on feel this light.”

A slightly darker sound emerges on Track #4 – “The Truth”. It starts out like Collective Soul and evolves into sounding like Linkin Park – showing a little variety for the band’s songbook here. But then the danceable chords are back again on “Say It Loud”. This is one of my favorites on the album, just because it is so upbeat and fun to listen to: “I’ve got to say it loud / I cannot stay proud / The things I’ve done the things I’ve done / Things I’ve said that I don’t mean.”

Track #6 opens with some edgier, very rock; almost metallish guitar chords. Musically, this reminds me of AC / CD on the intro… before going into a Foo Fighterish chorus of “It’s different now”. I love Dave Grohl as much as the next person, maybe more – if you agree then check this album out, or at least this song. The vocals are brighter and lighter – but if you imagine a Gritty Grohl on the vocals then you can kind of see what I mean about the Foo Fighters comparison (purely from a song style perspective).

“I Can’t Believe” is punk again! In fact, this is really the track that sounds like LIT or any other nostalgic punk song that you remember from your college days. Revived into modern times by bands like All American Rejects, etc… this is a fun sound brought into the pop scene by Green Day and Blink 182 and others back in the day – this sound will never really leave our hearts. This track is really short, and a little bit sweet! It is kind of great how this band is alternating the expected with some of their more varied work to keep the fans happy, but also show you that they are capable of something different.

The next song is so straightforward on the intro, I had to make myself listen to the entire thing just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. It had a good chorus with some strong guitars (“I’m gonna make this right eventually”), but nothing unexpected. By contrast, track #7 (“Let Me Try Again”) starts with an interesting and echoey “na nana na-na” on the introduction that right away sounds a little bit different than the other songs. I’d say it is more lyrical, more melodic, more DCFC and almost like Owl City on this one.

As for the song “I’m Wrong” –I love it when someone says this to me, so I was already biased. Just kidding! Objectively though, this song is a bit slow and seems whiny to me – the energy doesn’t really match the other tracks so it didn’t stand out as a favorite. Good thing the pace picks up on #11 – called “Sinking In”. It’s hard to disagree with lyrics like this: “I found peace and understanding and I stopped being so demanding….It’s finally sinking in / I found myself again.” Sounds like this punk is growing up a little bit?

The album closes with “This one’s for you” – which is really the hit single; the one that will get stuck in your head and will have you singing along whenever it pops up on your Pandora rotation. The lyrics are a little cheesy, but that is part of why they are so catchy: “This one’s for you – this one’s for us/ This one’s for shaking off the dust.” In summary, I think the Hangman album would be great for your morning commute, or your anytime workout soundtrack. I figure if you have to commute and exercise, you might as well have fuzzy punk power guitars while you’re at it! The lyrics aren’t half-bad, either.

This album doesn’t come out in stores until February 12, so you might not be able to hear the whole thing right away – but go ahead and check out the band’s website http://www.worthtaking.com for a sweet pre-order deal (just $3.49 for the album!) and the opportunity to preview select tracks. I’m sure that this band, with its people-pleasing style and full sound would make a great live show experience with any of your friends, young or old, so while you’re on the website see if they have any tour dates in your area, too! Enjoy reliving your college days with something new for your collection of fun favorites.

*Photo not taken by rockmycommute – image shown is as originally posted on http://www.eartothegroundmusic.co on February 5, 2016.