There’s a special selection of recording artists that fit into the category of storytellers. When you sit listening to it with headphones in or face first on your carpet as a piece of vinyl spins round, it feels as though you’re listening to a piece of sung poetry, also known as The Lumineers newest album “III.”
The Lumineers are best known for their 2012 Smash Summer Hit “Ho Hey.” A song that you’ll remember best from that car ride home from your first boy/girl swim party. As you sit and regret what you said to the boy from second period Spanish. You know the boy with that haircut?
Whatever. They’ve moved on and so have I.
In their newest album, “III” released in September of this year, they’re completely focused on storytelling. A concept they played with in their last album “Cleopatra” (2016), releasing an almost 30-minute long music video, “The Ballad of Cleopatra,” combining the songs in pieces to tell a full story.
They take this concept to a completely new level in “III,” their third album, as each song is one piece to a larger puzzle. Which, when placed together, tells a story of a family and how each generation continues to struggle with the mistakes of the past.
The first section of the album with songs “Donna,” “Life in the City” and “Gloria,” take us back to the two matriarchs of the family. Donna the grandmother and Gloria the mother, with “Life in the City” acting as a transition to further explain Gloria’s story. These songs are the more upbeat, pop-like section of the album, with “Gloria” being the crowning jewel of this section. The song that I could play for anyone and they’d enjoy it.
Ironic due to the subject matter of the struggle of alcoholism and a tumultuous marriage.
Though, “Life in the City” is probably my personal favorite from the first section, as it repeats melodies and lyrics from the song “Sleep on the Floor” from their album “Cleopatra” that were such a surprise I had to sit and listen again and again. Though with any other artist it’d feel like a lazy attempt to just recycle old material, it feels masterfully intentioned here. Making us as listeners feel as though we’re part of some larger story that’s being told by every song released.
The second section comprised of “It Wasn’t Easy To Be Happy For You,” “Leader of the Landslide” and “Left for Denver” takes a step closer to somber. They’re slower, and thus less attractive to most of my friends who are more of a fan of the Top 100 than “Those Indie songs.” But here the story moves to show us the lives of Gloria’s son and grandson still living in her house.
Though The Lumineers’ released “It Wasn’t Easy To Be Happy For You” as a single, I think “Leader of the Landslide” is the better song. It’s similar to “Gloria” in the way it has a more pop-music feel with quite the opposite lyrical meaning. Focusing on how Gloria’s grandson struggles with the dysfunctional relationship with his father, who is also an alcoholic.
The last section of songs, “My Cell”, “Jimmy Sparks”, “April” and “Salt and the Sea” wrap up the story. The most melancholic section of the album, as it seems to speak to the idea of there being no escape from the shattering effects of poor familial relationships.
If there’s one thing to be said about this album, The Lumineers were quite bold by telling their story through an entire album instead of just song by song. In an era of music that allows for playlists with multiple artists, there’s a lack of people willing to listen to an artist’s entire album from beginning to end.
Which really is what’s required to enjoy “III.” I understand where my friends who say that they don’t like this album are coming from. It takes steps away from The Lumineers’ “happy folk” background into more serious territory. But, if you’re willing to take an hour or so and really give the album a listen, I can’t say you’ll regret it. If you want to talk it over eventually, I’ll be here, face-first on my carpet listening to this album yet again.