Even though The Lumineers’ self titled debut album actually came out in 2012, the band is just now starting to really make waves thanks to its infectious hit single “Ho Hey”. But is the band a one hit fluke? Or do they have what it takes to keep the flames burning once “Ho Hey” disappears from the charts?
The band’s sound is a very stripped down folk-alternative affair. The vocals are reminiscent of pieces of Jack White, Grouplove and other higher range singers. He’s not pitch-perfect all of the time, but that’s what gives the songs some added charm. You feel like you’re sitting in on a living room musician get-together with a damn good songwriter.
The eleven track, 38 minute album goes by quickly. The songs are mostly simple and to-the-point. The lead-off track “Flowers In Your Hair” is less than two minutes and feels almost like a warm up. But vocalist Wesley Schultz already drops some brilliant lyrics like “It’s a long road to wisdom, but a short one to being ignored”. “Classy Girls” comes in next, which is a tale of bar-room romance, and stomps along like a White Stripes bluegrass whim. “Submarines” starts with basic bouncy piano and tells a tale of a boy with no credibility being laughed at for essentially shouting “the submarines are coming!”. Interesting twist on the boy who cried wolf story.
One of the cornerstone tracks of this album follows next, with “Dead Sea”, an interestingly worded acoustic love ballad, where Schultz sings “You told me I was like the dead sea, the nicest words you ever said to me”, that ends in a subtle string accompaniment. This leads to the track most people have heard by now, “Ho Hey”. Not to be confused with “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men, which uses similar shouts of “Hey!”. It’s one thing to drop lyrics like “I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart”. It’s another to deliver them in a way that feels genuine. This song does that. Pining for a life of not being single and lonely anymore. But the song feels like a moment where some neighborhood bar came together in one magic moment and broke into song holding each other up.
The ragged-hearted “Slow It Down” quietly sneaks in next. It’s a powerful snapshot of that moment when you are so tired of what life throws at you that all you can do is go to sleep. This is the song that really grabbed me on the first listen. It consists mainly of one softly strummed guitar and a voice full of weariness.
Next things pick up pace a bit with “Stubborn Love” which features some beautiful cello by member Neyla Parakeh. It reminds me a bit of Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers”, a soft but bouncy acoustic folk song. Schultz reflects “It’s better to feel pain than nothing at all, the opposite of love is indifference”. “Big Parade” follows with a style of singing that brings David Gray to mind, with a catchy “Oh my my oh hey hey” singalong as we meet the characters of a parade one by one and their quiet other lives we don’t see.
I’m not sure if the next song “Charlie Boy” counts as a traditional wartime drinking song, but it certainly has that kind of feel to it. Both happy and sad at the same time. And haunting. “Flapper Girl” has shadows of the 20s. Again introducing us to stories of characters that we feel we could easily meet, whether they are of the past or the present.
The final song “Morning Song” crashes in with guitar and drums before halting for Wesley to ruminate over lost love with “The carbonation in my drink, the bubbles rise while my heart sinks”, and once again paints a portrait, but this time it is of that moment before leaving town and leaving the broken past behind. Even in its simplicity, the song sounds very grandiose and ends with the hope of leaving sadness behind you and finding something better.
So no, I do not think this band will end at “Ho Hey”. There’s a special quality to the songwriting of this album. The lyrics paint a portrait and the music and vocals transport you to the emotion of the scene. And they do this with melodies that you can sing or at the very least hum along to, so they get in your head. I think this album is the start of something very special.
Check out some great videos from the album!:
“Slow It Down” (Live at Bing Lounge):