Vide Noir is French phrase, which translates more or less directly to “Black Void.” Not that the translation will be necessary of anyone who gives Lord Huron’s latest a spin. Their intent is pretty clearly stated throughout Vide Noir. Here is an album that grapples with the heaviest themes imaginable: life, love, and the ultimate impossibility of either in the face of an endless, uncaring void, and emerges without answers. If that all sounds a little maudlin, well, it is.
However, Lord Huron cover the whole ordeal in such a shiny wrapper that it’s hard to be overwhelmed by the bitterness of what’s inside. Vide Noir is an existential crisis, sure, but one that you can dance to, nod along to, zone out to; it’s an album that is as rewarding on the fourth or fifth listen as it is on the first, and one that absolutely positions Lord Huron for a big break.
Not that Lord Huron isn’t known already. Vide Noir is their third studio offering, following 2015’s Strange Trails and their 2012 debut Lonesome Dreams. “Fool for Love” became a minor hit for them off of Strange Trails, as did “The Night We Met” by way of the Netflix show Thirteen Reasons Why. The sound they established on their early albums, which might be best described as “atmospheric twang,” has been deepened, refined, and occasionally abandoned for this latest outing. Though the band is certainly recognizable from what came before, Vide Noir is a boldly experimental album. It gives the sense that Lord Huron are pushing themselves to their creative limit, the results of which are often breathtaking.
The album kicks off with “Lost in Time and Space,” which acts as a perfect bridge from the country sound Lord Huron is best known for and their current cosmic ambitions. The track also introduces a trend to the album of taking a late song left turn into the ether. Frontman Ben Schneider said that he was inspired to write the album by taking late night drives around LA and the surrounding country. It shows. Vide Noir is absolutely the kind of album that should be listened to in a night time car ride, with songs that slide into and out of themselves, matching the fleeting focus of a tired driver deep in thought.
Often when bands turn their attention to heady, cosmic subject matter, rhythm sections get left behind on Earth. On Vide Noir Lord Huron have thoroughly bucked the trend. Indeed, the album’s biggest standouts ("Never Ever," "Secret of Life," both parts of "Ancient Names") feature prominent bass lines. This speaks to the true strength of the album. No matter how long Lord Huron allow themselves to drift, they always regain their footing with songs that have solidly-written foundations.
The greatest weakness of the album is its lack of a true single. “Wait By the River,” a lovelorn ballad which (like its music video) hides darkness beneath its charmingly retro exterior, comes closest; however, even it suffers when separated from the whole. Truly, this is an album that was intended to be listened to as an album. Each song is thematically and sonically tied to the songs which surround it. Unfortunately, this causes the some of the tracks (particularly on the back half) to become indistinguishable from one another.
Vide Noir may not make Lord Huron a household name; however, it will be hard for anyone who is paying attention to deny what they have accomplished here. A distinct and singular vision, this album thoroughly captures the sense of cosmic curiosity it is so obsessed with. “I’m only a nameless soul, staring into a pure black void,” sings Schneider on the title track, which must be about the most brutally existential lyric ever written. And yet, Vide Noir never overwhelms or wallows. It’s a dark, cold universe but it’s the one we have, and it is unfathomably beautiful even if our place in it is ultimately insignificant. Have a nice day!
For fans of: Arcade Fire, The Moody Blues, existential crises
Our take: Thematically interwoven; excellent execution of a bold vision; a deep and polished gaze into the void