The Lumineers

Dualtone, 2016

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


The Lumineers avoids the sophomore slump on their second disc by trying not to replicate the major hit from the first disc, which is to their credit. That Cleopatra is kind of dull and wistful is a shame, but it's far closer to this band's heart than "Ho Hey" was, which is unfortunately what most people who pick up this disc will be expecting.

As if to capitulate to the masses, opener "Sleep On The Floor" is probably the closest to that pop-folk single in sound, as if to get it out of the way before the rest of this disc unfolds, although it's much slower and more potently heart-rending. And what unfolds next is another 10 songs of melancholy gray, reflection and acoustic guitars, with a little folk and almost no pop, the kind of music that could soundtrack the next my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Paper Towns/The Fault In Our Stars sort of movie.

It's a gutsy move to all but abandon the sound that made you popular, but the Lumineers didn't want to pretend to be someone they weren't, and I doubt they envisioned their brand of reflective music being sung at celebrations. Thus, Cleopatra is kind of a tough listen; despite being only 35 minutes, it feels considerably longer as Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites unspool one dusky, reflective late-night track after another. There's plenty of melody, lovely finger-picking and heartfelt lyrics, but almost no hooks and limited percussion.

In fact, all of the fun is had in the first half of the disc. You're better off listening to it on earbuds to really appreciate the smirky "Gun Song" or the cheerful title song, in which the upbeat stomp is at odds with the lyrics about growing old alone ("When I die alone, I'll be on time"). Probably the best song here is "Angela," which builds in intensity with some well-timed hand claps and lyrics concerning a literal and figurative road trip in search of something: "And your Volvo lights lit up green and white / With the cities on the signs / But you held your course to some distant war / In the corners of your mind."

The Lumineers is not a band that indulges themselves, though they very well could be – it's easy to do in this genre – but they're also not much fun or dramatic in their songwriting. A few listens reveal the details at work here, but this isn't an album that really demands or rewards those repeated listens, trading instead in slight pleasures and perhaps a nod-along or a glimmer of recognition at the characters in Cleopatra's songs. Sometimes, though, that's enough.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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