After four years, folk-pop trio The Lumineers released their second album, “Cleopatra” on April 8. It consists of 11 songs full of warmth, depth and the usual intimate feel of a Lumineers tune.
The group has moved on from the lighthearted, toe-tapping sound of their debut album but still maintains a familiar charm. Songwriters Wesley Schultz (guitar, vocals) and Jeremiah Fraites (drums, piano) spent six months writing in Denver before making way to Woodstock with Neyla Pekarek (cello, backing vocals) for the recording of the album. The songwriters describe their rigorous recording sessions as a two-month mixture of recording and therapy.
“It was the most intense, densely packed experience of our lives. There is no way to sum it up. When people ask how it was, you just have to laugh and say it was great,” Jeremiah is quoted saying on the Lumineers’ website.
The group has noticeably veered away from creating radio-friendly tunes like “Ho Hey” and focused more on craftsmanship this time around. Though songs like “Ophelia” and “Cleopatra” will almost definitely make their way onto the charts, the rest of the album is more of an acquired taste. The album opens with a sanguine track called “Sleeping on the Floor,” sung from the perspective of a man urging his lover to run away with him. “If we don’t leave this town, we might never make it out. I was not born to drown, baby come on,” Schultz sings. The questions posed in the chorus are meant for his lover but leave listeners to ponder over them: “If the sun don’t shine on me today, and if the subways flood and bridges break, will you lay yourself down and dig your grave? Or will you rail against your dying day?”
Unlike the rest of the album, the next two tracks, “Ophelia” and “Cleopatra,” are foot-stomping songs that are already receiving radio play. The haunting, melodious “Ophelia” was the first track written on the album and it is said to be a vague reference to falling in love with fame. The raspiness of Shultz’s voice prevails on this track while Jeremiah’s moving piano performance brings it all together. On the other hand, “Cleopatra” is an ode to lost love, with emotional sentiment hidden by an upbeat tempo. The lyrics in this particular song paint a clear image of the type of love at hand: “And I left the footprints, the mud stained on the carpet, and it hardened like my heart did when you left town. But I must admit it, that I would marry you in an instant. Damn your wife, I’d be your mistress just to have you around.” This is a song I can’t resist because I consider Schultz’s voice and heart-wrenching lyrics to be a match made in heaven.
“Gun Song” is based on a memory Schultz has of finding a gun in a drawer after his father died. “Angela,” arguably the best song on the album, is about a girl who longs to escape from “the strangers in this town, [who] raise you up just to cut you down.” The beautifully detailed lyrics coupled with the gentle guitar-picking give this track a homey feel. Numbers like “Long Way from Home” and “Gale Song” seem to be lacking some elements that would make the songs whole. “My Eyes” is on the heavier side, flowing with evocative lyrics and a woeful melody. I’m not the biggest fan of is “Sick in the Head,” and I think it’s because it almost feels wrong hearing Schultz repeatedly curse. Finally the album comes to an end with “Patience,” a two-minute uplifting piano ballad.
Though the band has been getting some heat for this album, I can honestly say my expectations have been met. Each song stands out in its own way, whether it’s by the thoughtful lyrics, catchy tune, or hidden meaning. The Lumineers should be applauded for they have grown while managing to keep their soulful, homely nature. “This is going to sound crazy, but, if making an album is like robbing a house, the first album felt like the homeowners were taking the dog for a walk, and we only had ten minutes to get in and get out. It was manic. It was rushed. But on the second album, Jer and I felt like the owners were taking a two week vacation. We could get in there, take our time, and find exactly what we were looking for,” reads a quote from Schultz on the album-making process from the Lumineers website. The Lumineers are definitely back and shining brighter than ever.