Upon listening to The Lumineer’s sophomore album Cleopatra, you are immediately struck by a sense of nostalgia that allowed their first album to be a raging success. This sound is what had gained them two Grammy nominations in 2013, including Best New Artist. It is immediately identifiable as “The Lumineers” — which to some could be immensely positive — as it appears to have once again recaptured the magic that made their self-titled debut album to be so successful. Sometimes, however, in an attempt to recapture the magic of previous success, it restricts itself from evolving and moving forward as a band.
For this review, I have a look at why the previous album received such a positive reception. It was something new and different to a classic genre that was desperate for something that wasn’t Mumford & Sons. It was poetic and bold — an intimate romantic setting that would make you swoon and weak at the knees — breathing life into your chest; Wesley Schultz’s booming passionate vocals plays off the loud percussions and building acoustic guitar. It was in trying to recapture all the love and character of the debut album where the sophomore album falls short. It does feel nostalgic and it does feel like a “Lumineers Record”, but many of the tracks are instantly forgettable, something that was not the case with their debut LP.
Within Cleopatra there are all the characteristics that make it a “Lumineers Record’” Catchy piano fingerings, the identifiable classic guitar; these aspects build an energy accompanied by an impactful drum beat that explodes into a larger chorus (and again fades). But that’s just it: in it’s attempt to double down on the previous albums’ success, it ultimately felt too predictable. One of the standout track on this album was ‘In The Light’ (if only for the fact it was something different to what I had heard the Lumineers try before). It represented to me the kind of exploration and discovery The Lumineers could have taken this album in and, in fact, made me perk up and become interested again. Although it probably won’t prove to be an instant smash hit, ‘In The Light’ by the simple virtue of just being different to everything else makes it quite literally, a standout track.
Fear not though, if you are a fan of The Lumineers then there is still much to be admired about their follow-up album. If what you are looking for is something to kick back and relax with on a rainy night, then it’s still a pleasant album. Some would akin much of The Lumineers songwriting to read more like poetry than lyrics, and this album does have a focused theme on intimate love and passionate relationships. It is not for everyone though. The strengths of the lyrics in the tracks ‘In The Light’ and ‘Ophelia’ are in their storytelling of their relationships. Conversely, these strengths also happen to be the weaknesses in some of the album, including ‘Gun Song’ or ‘Long Way From Home’ that employ mostly clichés and ambiguous imagery in their lyrics that come across forced and hollow.
It appears that The Lumineers tried to take a step in the right direction and not allow the success of their first album veer them off course. Unfortunately, in doing so handcuffed themselves to a certain style that may have impeded them in evolving and developing as a band. The tools are still there though, and I think The Lumineers will still be back with much more to give.
Cleopatra is out now via Decca Records/Dualtone.