Lord Huron’s Vide Noir: A Review

Michigan based folk-rock outfit Lord Huron is back with their first full-length album since 2015, and with it they bring a creative and well-executed departure from the sounds that made them popular.

Lord Huron had released three distinctly folk albums since 2012, all of which were reviewed fairly positively, but were never really commercially successful. Lord Huron was seeming damned to mediocre obscurity, until 2017, when Netflix’s television adaptation of the book “Thirteen Reasons Why” used the two-year-old track “The Night We Met” and brought it back to the charts. And not just to the charts, to a relatively high position on the charts, far higher than when it was first released in 2015. As of now that song is platinum, and it’s the band’s only platinum to date.

However with “Vide Noir” Lord Huron takes a different approach to their previously set folk rock sound. Acoustic instruments are still audible, like on the track “Back from the Edge,” but unlike their prior albums, “Vide Noir” isn’t explicitly rustic. In fact, it’s not very rustic at all.

To start, “Vide Noir” was produced by Dave Friedmann, someone who has worked with the iconic psychedelic band The Flaming Lips. He brings elements of psychedelia into the album, and it’s clean production is often met with swooping guitars, overdriven fuzz, and echo-y reverbs. It creates a soundscape like none other the band has made. In a review for “The Guardian,” Dave Simpson writes about how “Vide Noir”…songs no longer conjure up vast rural or mountainous landscapes but the even more widescreen spaces of the cosmos.”

A big strength of this album is it’s tone, due in large part to the lyrics. Bouncing from track to track, one could be the soundtrack to a black and white noire detective movie, while another could be the soundtrack to an alien’s first views of Earth.

The themes of love and loss are crooned through the use of metaphors involving space. These are the same themes featured on their previous three albums, and yet, “Vide Noir” presents them so differently. A transition away from the traditional folk music while maintaining the same lyrical themes and general feeling is a difficult feat that Lord Huron executes almost perfectly.

Lots of bands in the folk scene are making a transition similar to Lord Huron’s, going from strict folk to a more radio friendly alt-rock sound.

However, Lord Huron is shying away from a traditional alt-rock sound, instead opting for a more lush, ambient sound. Even on tracks like “Never Ever”, which is one of the harder hitting tracks on the album, an underlying soft feel remains. They are never aggressive, more climatic. A folk rock take on the post-rock ideas of building to a crescendo, holding that energy, then slowly coming back down.

As a result of this post-rock formula, a lot of the songs have the same pattern. They have the bass and sparse guitars play the verse, keep a drum beat going through all, then bring everything else in for the chorus.

The three tracks “The Balancer’s eye” and “Secret of Life” and “Moonbeam” all follow that pattern. This leads to most tracks bleeding together, with very few standout tracks. It’s too electric, and the drums are highlighted quite often, almost pushing the guitars to the back.

In short: A lot of the tracks on this album sounds the same, even if the tone differs from song to song.

Lord Huron’s sudden genre shift doesn’t feel forced, but it does seem like if they didn’t get mainstream attention they wouldn’t have gone in this direction.

However, their lack of diversity in the track list isn’t a bad thing because this is a remarkably solid album, especially for something as far from their prior endeavors as this.

All in all “Vide Noir” is an extremely well executed blend of folk, psychedelic, and post-rock. It is the most solid entry in their discography to date, and shows the band is open to experimentation within their sound without sacrificing their folk rock roots.

Score: 8.5/10