Lord Huron has come a long way from Michigan campfire songs. Ben Schneider turned into a band, the band turned into something noteworthy and eventually landed a major-label deal. Its sound continued to expand, too, the early folk-rock becoming bigger and more complex, and new album Vide Noir continues that development while traveling from the Great Lakes across the West to a comfortable place in California, ready for open air venues. At the same time, now more than even on those early recordings, the group seems to be staring up from that campfire into an unanswering sky. The title translates from the French as “black void,” with the emptiness displayed coming not just from the night but from within.

It takes just a few seconds to enter that internal void. Opener “Lost in Time and Space” swirls down from the solar system before falling into a looping cowboy rhythm. That pace well suits the meditation, a reflection of the loss of identity amidst romantic betrayal. The track closes as a drift back up to the stars, allowing for one of the album’s best moments, the quick shift into “Never Ever,” which responds to its predecessor but turns the open heartbreak into urgent indie-rock. The precision of the drums counteracts the spaciness of the opener, creating two musical reactions to the same experience while building nuance to the emotional side of it.

That sort of interplay between metronomic rock drive and cosmic flourishes develops the album’s central aesthetic, forming unity amid its searching. It’s a sound that works well, but the ideas get redundant. Vide Noir plays as a story of a heartbroken man tracking down his ex-lover while dealing with his own despair, but he never seems to get anywhere. At best, he reaches an epiphany: “Oh, what a fool am I/ For squandering my love.” That’s the closest we come to growth, although the discovery could have been made early on, with the partner’s theft and escape.

Even stripping the songs out of a linear progression, the weight of those feelings can wear over the course of the album. The temporary relief of “Moonbeam,” with its upbeat tone and relative hopefulness, helps keep the album from buckling under its heavy concerns. “Back from the Edge” is another exception, offering some hope of coming back from that place near death, or at least near existential nothingness. Even so, it’s part of the esoterica of the album, part of a larger schematic of occult ideas, potions, astral plane crossings and the like. Lord Huron has fully developed its concept, complete with mystical peddlers online. Lyrics and music interweave across the disc, creating a world.

However, that world could use just a little more expansion. The songs are strong, with some intricate interplay between instruments, but its very structure can work against it. Getting lost in its middle-of-the-night spectral path might be a wondrous meditation, but seeing the same sights too often might make you want to get out of its hedges.

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