By Sophie Israelsohn
Up until a few weeks ago, it was practically assumed The Lumineers had gone on hiatus. It isn’t too much of an overstep to say that they were just about forgotten completely aside from their single “Ho Hey” occasionally making an appearance on the airwaves. But their most recent release, Cleopatra, affirmed that they are not a band to forget. As they say in their single “Ophelia,” we “should have known better.”
In true Lumineers fashion, the first track of the album, “Sleep On The Floor,” opens with kick drum and tambourine, slowly and surely, picking up the pace both in lyrics and rhythmic accompaniment. By the second verse, it’s as if The Lumineers never actually fell of the planet like some may have dared to think.
The contour of the album isn’t super balanced. The first half is predominantly uptempo with “Cleopatra” and “Gun Song” and then progressively (or rather, regressively) leads to the slower, softer ballads like “Long Way From Home” and the closer, “Patience.” There are moments that hint toward a harmonic peak, but it’s not often achieved in the latter half of the album.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but for passive listeners it hits a lull that doesn’t do much to prevent a listener from checking out. Even with the B-sides on the deluxe version, it’s not enough to keep the energy up. In fact, there’s something clearly missing from the entire second half of the album: vocal harmonies. Of course, in the car, you can just make up your own (#carsingingisthenewshowersinging), but the harmonies this band is capable of have always added so much to the overall texture, as is clear in its first few tracks.
Another thing to consider is the diversity in sound. Because of their orchestration, many songs on this album, as on the last, sound quite similar. This could be seen as signature and cohesive, or it could be seen as the one trick from the pony and a little boring. It’s so obviously Lumineers, so how could we expect anything different?
Cleopatra was released in the same season of releases as Lucius’ sophomore album Good Grief and Andrew Bird’s umpteenth album Are You Serious? both of which step outside their freshman comfort zone.
There’s comfort in familiarity, but it often isn’t without a tinge of curiosity for something new in a sophomore album. The Lumineers don’t necessarily disappoint in sticking to what they know, but from a progression standpoint, it would be interesting to see how far they’ll explore in the future.