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Why Lord Huron’s ‘Strange Trails’ Was The Best Album Of 2015

Jillian Morabito |
December 31, 2015 | 1:38 p.m. PST

Music Editor

Our favorite album of the year (via Stereo Records).
Our favorite album of the year (via Stereo Records).
A newborn princess, confusing dresses, and dancing sharks—2015 was a year of many things. Whereas marvelous albums such as “25” by Adele and “To Pimp A Butterfly” by Kendrick Lamar are nevertheless noteworthy, I found the utmost sincere pleasure in Lord Huron’s sophomore album, “Strange Trails.” Meticulously crafted with modest folk rhythms and captivating narratives, this LP was the best thing to emerge from music this year. 

I know. How could I disagree with the illustrious elevator music in the form of “Hotline Bling?” Or, who could deny the reinvented (and more lovable) Bieber? What about One Direction’s final hurrah? If one takes the “name” away from most “popular” music, these products simply aren't that great. This is why I chose to look further than just what the radio plays. 

I have my reasons for choosing “Strange Trails,” the first being that I love the simplicity found in the Americana-folk genre. Neglecting the copout use of electronic beats or the seemingly illustrious desire to have a Max Martin-produced track, Lord Huron composes songs that speak to the heart, without unnecessary fictitious embellishment in its production. It is simply music made by musicians that tell stories without mention of overtly sexualized allusions to women or explicit drug use. There was also no fancy studio used; the album was recorded in an abandoned studio in the band’s native Los Angeles.

READ MORE: 15 Songs From 2015 You Should Know

Furthermore, there is profound lyrical merit in “Strange Trails.” The opening track, “Love Like Ghosts” is just one peak into profound feelings expressed in the form of musical genius. Describing love as, “Few have seen it but everybody talks,” and “There ain’t a language for the things I feel,” lead singer Ben Schneider writes with such candor, alluding to the perception of love as a ghost that one can neither see nor rid. In “La Belle Fleur Sauvage,” Schneider sings of not only a man falling in love with a beautiful woman, but also living a life he is proud of with her by his side. He’s captivated by the world but knows that he can only have it with her in his. Beat that, Bieber. 

Each song has a different narrative, a different take on endurance in being. “Meet Me In The Woods” deals with a somber side of life—darkness in the world. Saying, “The truth is stranger than my own worst dreams,” the track paints a picture of an unknown world that is mysteriously haunted and this creeps into the soul. It can’t be described, only felt. This theme of darkness perpetrates the world further than just the last “Star Wars” flick—it is this debilitating feeling that our world unfortunately has and Lord Huron recognizes it here.  “Way Out There” goes even further in discussing the themes of the afterlife and the temporary inhabitation of our worldly bodies. It’s deep.  

A large theme on this album is death. A subject not many musicians discuss (for obvious, depressing reasons), yet it is evident through our world. 2015, in particular, has been no stranger to this. With more mass shootings than days in the year in the United States, massacres in Kenya and Paris, and worldwide brutality in the form of corruption, death is discussed nonchalantly every day on the news and yet, hardly ever in music. On “Strange Trails,” the topic of morality is intertwined with love and ghosts, making it all the more moving and emotive. Lord Huron acknowledges that love and death go hand-in-hand because without one, the other wouldn’t be as powerful (i.e. “Louisa, “Dead Man’s Hand”). For that allusion alone, this deserves to be the best album of the year. 

The whole album isn’t completely morbid; “Fool For Love” is wildly upbeat. It’s the tale of a guy unabashedly falling for a girl that is betrothed to another men but acknowledging his love for her, nevertheless. However, the song concludes with the realization that perhaps this will not work and who will know what comes next. It’s playful tracks like this that balance the rather serious thematic elements of “Strange Trails.”  

It’s quite difficult for me to choose the best song on this album, but “The Night We Met” is a culmination of writer Schneider’s extraordinary feelings. It starts of with a slow guitar and softly tender vocals, and then builds to a triumphant chorus. Accompanied by heralding background hums and sharp reflective beats, this song is engaging beyond comprehension. The way Schneider sings “I had all and then most of you, some and now none of you” makes you feel everything, and then some. 

“Strange Trails” is dark. There’s no doubting that. But beneath the raw tales and themes, there is this understated land the band has crafted. Inspired by comics and legendary stories, the album invented its own world and that is truly something. 

With every listen, I take something different away from this album. It’s the story of a journey and exploring not only people and the world, but also your own path. Though this trail may be littered with the lowest of lows, unrequited love, foolish mistakes, the loss of something most dear, there’s something redeeming about the lessons learned. It’s quite rare to find an album that encompasses life in its truest sense, but Lord Huron does it here. 

“Strange Trails” tells stories. Stories of love, friendship, trust, understanding, struggle. Simply, “Strange Trails” is an artfully crafted narrative of the story of life.  

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