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The Lumineers ‘Cleopatra’ glints in the distant wake of first album

By Jacob Edelman

Section: Arts

April 15, 2016

I’m an unabashed fan of The Lumineers. I came upon their namesake first album at the height of its popularity, and listened the hell out of the sing-song “Ho Hey.” I only later appreciated and embraced the rhythmic callings of “Dead Sea,” the common identity begging to be found in “Stubborn Love” and the upbeat swings of “Flapper Girl.”

It has been four long years since their first album was released. Now, “Cleopatra” (the deluxe edition with four bonus tracks) draws on many of the the folksy, acoustic, untreated origins of four years ago that have been missed by some for so long. From the first track, the band is instantly recognizable as the band we’ve been waiting for another album from. The restrained electric guitar is back, as is their well-used percussion interspersing their accessible, abiding lyrics.

One of the biggest draws of The Lumineers, I find, is their absolute accessibility. They are not country music, but they sing about Cadillacs and love, finding your way home and becoming a bigger person. Their melodies are easy on the ears, and the tracks don’t run any longer or shorter than what they know simply works. This newest album runs 31 minutes, 47 seconds.

“Cleopatra” is an easy album to listen to, but what’s difficult about it is to listen deeply. It is hard to tell where the Lumineers were pulling their lyrics and melodies from—from the heart, or from the wake of their success and a desire to duplicate their past.

A band similar in some styles, Mumford & Sons, took their second album in an entirely different direction from their first, straight into electric rock and high-power lyrics from a place that had previously been occupied by a happy banjo. I approved of the direction they went, for it showed both their versatility and that they could maintain their character as a musical group.

The Lumineers, rather than veering in an entirely different direction, adjusted their heading by a few degrees and seem to be trending in the same general direction as they were already. That direction may be a good one, but it is about the same nonetheless.

Call me a sucker for headlining songs, but the tracks that ring with me the most are “Sleep on the Floor” and “Angela.” Each is tender, each is subtle and each pulls its own to help prop up the rest of the album. Part two of “Cleopatra” is unmemorable and following “Angela,” the tracks seem almost to run together.

Ironically, the main portion of the album ends on the track “Patience,” which is entirely instrumental. As it turns out, I was not patient enough for it, and have not checked back on the track since my initial listening.

The four bonus tracks are a pleasant addition, and it is worth getting ahold of the album’s deluxe edition to have the opportunity to give them a try.

Taking the headphones off and walking away from “Cleopatra,” I get the sense that I had just listened to The Lumineers’ first album with a new, glossy coat of paint. The album seems polished and does well to fill the footprints left by its predecessor; however on the inside it sounds like it could be hollow. It’s worth giving a listen to for anyone who hasn’t listened to the band in a while, butI wouldn’t recommend it as a replacement for its precursor.

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