Following two low-profile EPs, Lonesome Dreams is the debut from Michigan-born/Los Angeles-based sound sculptor Ben Schneider and his band Lord Huron. The wide-open pastoral feel of the album seems designed to calm the ongoing argument happening with Schneider's songwriting sensibilities, which seem conflicted between jubilant indie pop wanderlust and stoic traditionally structured Americana. The album opens with "Ends of the Earth," a jaunty and triumphant song filled with imagery of rivers, mountains, and arid desertscapes. As well constructed as the song is, it follows so closely the open-ended indie folk style of Fleet Foxes, My Morning Jacket, and the like that it comes off as a pretty blatant ripoff and little else. The searching harmonies and overblown pondering of nature don't help. However, as soon as the song fades out, "Time to Run" begins with watery field recordings of bells and washy synth tones before bursting into a jubilant slice of acoustic pop owing equal parts to Animal Collective's happy-go-lucky freaked sounds and Paul Simon's Afro-pop-borrowing optimism. The song is beyond catchy and beyond happy, bounding along ecstatically between huge choruses, friendly verses, and experimental found sound breakdowns. Being of several minds like this is the crux of Lonesome Dreams. Somewhere between the feral experimentation of freak folk, the sunny polyrhythms, and the obligatory references to rocks and trees that come with soul-searching folk-informed indie rock like this, Lord Huron either sound like brilliantly happy tropical indie rock (as on "The Man Who Lives Forever") or under-produced young country (as with the hokey title track). Schneider's affected vocals muddy the waters some as well, taking down some of the album's plentiful bright melodies with a heavy mountain-man accent. Rarely do the two worlds meet in the middle as well as they do on "Time to Run," though mellower tracks like "Ghost on the Shore" and "In the Wind" create more space for the album's softer intricacies. While Lonesome Dreams paints its sound in broad, thoughtful strokes, it's at its best when the arrangements meet up with hooks. Unfortunately, the album is heavier on Western atmosphere and manicured harmonies than it is inspired hooks. While it's a pleasant enough listen, the entire album falls short of the potential opulence hinted at by its best tracks.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas