I first heard the Lumineers were starting a new album about three years ago. In that span of time, I’ve gotten a few bad haircuts and a few good burritos, but I haven’t gotten a CD as good as this. It may be cliché, but it’s nonetheless true: this music was worth the wait.
The band, known best for its 2012 hit “Ho Hey,” released “Cleopatra” this month, and it’s one of those rare albums where the more you listen to it, the more you want to listen to it. A follow-up to the group’s first, self-titled album, these new songs are like finding something you didn’t know you’d misplaced. They just feel good, and it’s satisfying to listen to them.
The album shows development, too. While it’s not as well-balanced as the Lumineers’ first release – ultimately lacking any upbeat tracks like “Big Parade” or “Flowers in Your Hair” – “Cleopatra” has a lot more depth, even if it is more subdued. Most of the songs feel like a mix between the early “Stubborn Love” and “Slow It Down” from their first CD, showing lead singer Wesley Schultz hitting his stride.
The first song on “Cleopatra,” “Sleep on the Floor,” is a great way to begin the album, as it’s one of its best. It reveals what fans rightly love most about the band: that gritty, authentic indie sound accompanied by sincere lyrics like “Will you lay yourself down and dig your grave or will you rail against your dying day.” It feels a little reminiscent of “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night,” the Dylan Thomas poem most of us read in high school. Luckily, there’s no rage against the dying of the light here, but the song sounds best with the volume turned all the way up on your headphones.
“Ophelia,” which the band released as a teaser to the album a few months before the release, is just as catchy now as when I first played it on repeat for five days straight. Perhaps it lacks a little bit of substance, but the piano bit is so unreservedly well-done that it hardly merits complaint. The two other great songs are “Angela” and “Cleopatra,” leading me to believe that the best songs on the album are named after women (like most great things in life – except hurricanes).
All of the highlights for me are weighted on the top half of the CD. There are a couple throwaways in the last five or so songs, but overall “Cleopatra” is a powerful compilation with more direction than the group’s first album.
Schultz, Jeremiah Fraites and Neyla Pekarek – the band’s original trio from Denver – will also perform at Red Butte Garden on May 25. The Lumineers gained momentum after “Gale Song” appeared on the “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” soundtrack in 2013; thankfully, it’s also included in the tracks for “Cleopatra,” gaining the honorable ranking as my favorite song to have stuck in my head when I don’t want a song stuck in my head at all – actually, that applies to the whole album.