The Colorado indie trio The Lumineers, best-known for their uplifting hit “Ho Hey” from their self-titled 2012 album, return with a brooding and moving sophomore album Cleopatra.

‘Cleopatra’ by The Lumineers Album Review

Songwriters Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites demonstrate a new maturity in their work with a heightened attention to storytelling and a less unassuming attitude in their music. Cleopatra touches on some age-old themes like resilience, love, age, longing and distance and ultimately carries across a sense of disillusionment. Narratively, the album is shaped by its characters those indicated in the titles of several of the album’s essential songs, namely Cleopatra, Ophelia and Angela. Cleopatra is all about perspective and The Lumineers have successfully and cleverly captured that, putting a deeper existential turn on their otherwise easy-going acoustic vibe.

With its stomping beats, the first single “Ophelia” has a striking resemblance to the band’s big hit “Ho Hey,” though rendered unmistakably more wistful and melancholic by the catchy and anxious piano riffs. Alluding to the Shakespearean tragic character, Schultz is sentimental to the point of almost becoming annoying, but what ultimately saves the song is its unique perspective. This is more than a song about impossible love – it is rather a song about a love complicated by fame and the spotlight, which gives its modern relevance.

The title track “Cleopatra” is also made relevant through in a different manner by talking about some of our most human and inextricable fears: death and the past. The track tells the story of a woman filled with regrets about her past. She laments, “I was late for this, late for that, late for the love of my life… When I die alone I’ll be on time.”  Schultz’s vocals are complemented by hypnotic instrumentals from fellow band members Fraites and Neyla Pekarek.

The music on Cleopatra is subdued, bleak-sounding and serious. There is almost no trace of earlier nonchalance and idyllic Americana simplicity, even thought The Lumineers sound just as comfortable in a darker strain of their rhythmic folk with gospel elements. The melodies are still as simple and captivating, but also evidently interlaced with a more restrained and tense sound. And even the guitar is electric more often than not, highlighting the colder, more introspective vibe of their new music.

Perhaps this newfound heftiness of sound and lyric vulnerability is an indication of the band’s growth over the past years. Cleopatra shows that they are not afraid of facing big existential topics and doing so in a quietly dramatic way. The sophomore album reveals a more disciplined songwriting and a pensive look at what makes us human.

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