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Lord Huron, Long Lost (Republic/ Whispering Pines, 2021)

“This recording is intended to be enjoyed in sequence and without interruption.”

Though written unobtrusively at the bottom of the back cover of Long Lost, that the band felt the need to provide a cue for how their album was meant to be heard is telling. Music listening habits are changing, perhaps now more than ever.

The idea of creating an album of songs as a form of artistic expression above and beyond the individual songs themselves is relatively new. Consumption of popular recorded music began with singles. ‘Million sellers’ were single songs that sold one million or more copies. Guinness World Records reports that the first of those came in 1902. But it wasn’t until Harry Belafonte’s 1956 LP Calypso that an album sold over a million copies.

Concept albums achieved mainstream popularity only as recently as the late sixties. Classic rock in the 70s cemented the role of the album as an artform. MTV brought a renewed focus on the single throughout the early 80s. The compact disc followed and introduced album listening to a new generation, and the millenial rise of peer-to-peer file sharing accelerated album downloading. But the music industry has a strong bias toward singles again as subscription-based streaming services’ proprietary, algorithmic, singles-driven playlists become ubiquitous.

In the thick of this global move toward single songs linked by nothing more than big data, Lord Huron have dared to make a modest, meaningful statement: Long Lost is an intentional collection of music that is coherent, worthwhile, and a product of individual human thought and creativity.

Lord Huron do not grandstand their effort. The quote above is a footnote and is only included with physical copies of the release, which makes it seem to be written mostly for those of us who would want to put the album on and play it in its entirety anyway. And Lord Huron recognize the times. Long Lost can be streamed and was preceded by four singles.

In that context, I appreciate Long Lost as a subtle yet clear stand on behalf of albums as a viable and important artform in 2021. But I appreciate the song cycle in and of itself even more. Taken as a whole, it sounds like a musical expression of the often wide open, mostly beautiful and endlessly variable desert expanse I am partial to and that is roughly outlined by connecting the Book Cliffs, Big Bend, Anza-Borrego and Pyramid Lake.

It sounds like real and imagined versions of that land, conjuring images of a show at Pappy and Harriet's on a moonlit night that just won't cool off, and of the house band for The Bang Bang Bar if Twin Peaks had been set in the Southwest instead of the Northwest. It sounds like the soundtrack to Cinerama-sized film versions of that region through time, too, as suited to a panoramic scene of a cowboy riding through cholla as it is to a rolling shot of a teamster driving on I-40.

Get Long Lost, and get lost in the desert with Lord Huron for an hour. In sequence and without interruption as intended, its songs, atmosphere and creativity have the potential to take you somewhere else in a way no big data playlist can. I highly recommend the trip.

Robert Hann: 

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