Formed by Wesley Shultz and Jeremiah Fraites following the death of Fraites brother in 2002, The Lumineers have come to be known as a band that conveys very real and raw emotion through music. The Colorado based folk-band released their self-titled debut LP in 2012 to huge critical acclaim, with the album peaking at number 2 on the Billboard 200 chart and going Platinum in the US, as well as Gold in the UK, Canada and Australia.
So it may come as little surprise that their sophomore record Cleopatra, is again incredibly raw and down to earth, and for the most part is made up of songs that use lyrics to convey real and relatable experiences.
The instrumentation that The Lumineers make use of is – for the most part, fairly simplistic. Most tracks on Cleopatra are limited to one or two accompanying instruments behind the lyrics, and as a result of never being in danger of being over-written, there is a certain vibe within the admittedly predictable chord changes of most tunes that feels truthful and raw. Cleopatra is one song for instance, which has fairly simple guitar and piano accompanying phrasing, with foreseeable transitions, and as a result the lyrics are easy to learn and the sing-along potential is huge. Angela is another track composed in a similar vein, written about love and loss, but based around around simple guitar chords and therefore is immediately easy to follow and relate to.
This isn’t to say that a familiar formula gives the record a too-similar feel, rather the diversity on the album is achieved through subtleties in melody, instrumentation, dynamics, and tempo. In The Light is a softer track with Shultz employing sweeter and higher-pitched vocals. The track that follows, Gale Song is sung much deeper and as a result has a much more powerful and passionate emotive vibe.
The Lumineers also create diversity on this record through alternating the time feel and tempo on various tracks. My Eyes is written with ¾, and Gun Song is based on a triplet feel, as a break from most other songs, written with four beats to a bar. Opening track Sleep On The Floor is even composed with a half-time feel that later moves into four once again.
There is definitely a darker aspect to the record overall when compared with their last record, with tracks like Ophelia exploring the possibilities and results of falling in love with fame, becoming a symbol for this idea of celebrity. Gun Song also has a shadier tone, the lyrics telling the story of a young man finding a gun, in the midst of his years of teen angst.
One of the unexpected highlights of the entire record is the outro track, Patience, which is a simple but expressive piano instrumental. At only just over one and a half minutes, its long enough to be reflective but short enough to keep your attention long enough to conclude the album handsomely.
‘Cleopatra’ is out April 8th and you can grab it here.