Folk rockers The Lumineers released their much anticipated second album Cleopatra earlier this month. The band, based in Denver, Colorado, gained popularity after releasing their self-titled debut in 2012. Their delightfully boisterous “Ho Hey” propelled them to fame after it was used on an episode of Hart of Dixie, triggering a social media frenzy in the US.
The band was founded by songwriters Wesley Schultz, who is responsible for the lead vocals and guitar, and Jeremiah Fraites who plays drums. Cellist and vocalist Neyla Pekarek makes up the trio, and pianist Stelth Ulvang and bassist Ben Wahamaki often contribute.
Their second album, which doesn’t depart too far from the irresistibly folksy sound of their debut album, entered the UK and US album charts at number one. As a whole, Cleopatra sounds more mature and less playful than their debut, but retains the essence of the folk rock charm that made them popular.
The album starts with the mellow sing-a-long worthy “Sleep On The Floor”. With it’s classic small town sentiments it urges you to “pack yourself a toothbrush dear… because if we don’t leave this town we might never make it out”. The guitar chords are instantly recognisable as belonging to the Lumineers, and, perhaps with the exception of “Cleopatra”, this song is the most in keeping with their debut album.
It’s followed by the first of three songs about women, the staccato piano-laden “Ophelia”, which is accompanied by their trademark hand-clapping beat. Wesley sings, “Heaven help a fool who falls in love”, which generally sums up the album’s attitude to that most powerful of emotions.
“Cleopatra” is arguably the best song on the album and it is no surprise that it is the album title. The initially melancholic vocals carry an unashamed country twang and are laid over simple but catchy guitar strumming. Later in the song, the tempo picks up and it becomes more playful, with a swelling chorus.
The sleepy “Gun Song” makes it clear that the Lumineers “don’t own a single gun” and “don’t have a sweetheart yet”. The chorus consists of some extended “la la la las“, creating the impression of it being an incomplete song, but it is catchy nonetheless.
“Angela” starts as a simple but pretty acoustic lament about “strangers in this town who raise you up just to cut you down”. The hand-clapping beat doesn’t kick in until half way through the song, which is something of a pattern throughout the album.
“In The Light” is a dreamy lullaby with whimsical lyrics about “memories old” laid over borderline-jazz piano, hand-clapping and guitar that only really kicks in towards the end of the song, while “Gale Song” is another country song. It takes down the tempo and showcases Wesley’s haunting vocals. He sings of love lost, reminiscing “of a time when I stood in line for love”.
“Long Way Home” is splendidly out of tune in parts with some unself-conscious howling into the microphone. It shouldn’t work but it does. It is filled with eternal truths such as “Hospital gowns never fit like they should”. “Sick In The Head” is a mismatched pairing of slow miserable vocals with a fast happy guitar sample and feels like it was quickly thrown together without too much thought.
“My Eyes” combines crashing piano chords with slow and haunting vocals, and finally, “Patience” is a short, light and tinkling piano solo. Overall, this is a fairly short album, at just 11 tracks. Though it doesn’t quite live up to the high standards of their first album, fans will no doubt not be disappointed by this more serious and melancholic sophomore album.
Out now on Decca/Universal, purchase The Lumineers’ Cleopatra album on iTunes here.
Words by Deshani Shan