September 13, 2019 The Lumineers – III (Album Review)
Formed in 2005, in Ramsey, New Jersey, The Lumineers are among the purveyors of what has become Indie/Pastoral Folk—defined primarily by the songs’ Folk/acoustic roots; catchy Pop sensibilities; Indie quirkiness; and rustic, Gospel-reminiscent vocal harmonies. Going onto emerge in the 2010s alongside groups like Fleet Foxes (“Fool’s Errand”), Boy & Bear (“Hold on Your Nerve”), and Mumford & Sons (“Guiding Light”), to date the band has three studio albums to their name – 2012’s self-titled, 2016’s Cleopatra, and their newest, III.
Hitting the public on Friday, September 13th via Dualtone/Decca Records, The Lumineers’ third full-length is a conceptual album, in which founder Wesley Schultz (lead vocals, guitar) and Jeremiah Fraites (drums, percussion) were backed up in the studio by Byron Isaacs (bass, backing vocals), Lauren Jacobson (violin, backing vocals), Simone Felice (maraca, backing vocals), David Baron (synths, keyboards, harmonium), and Anneke Schaul-Yoder (cello).
Produced by Simone Felice, III tells of the struggles of the fictional Sparks family. Complete with ten songs it all starts off with the haunting and bucolic, slow piano ballad titled “Donna.” The pace then immediately picks up with the ensuing narrative, “Life in the City”—still piano-oriented but this time punchy, upbeat, and more engaging. Intensifying the energy some more, the single “Gloria” follows next with its raw, acoustic sound and big bass-and-drum beats. And then there is the folky guitar song “It Wasn’t Easy to Be Happy for You,” relaxing the mood for a while.
The Lumineers then take you farther back to the aesthetics of Psychedelic Folk with the nostalgia of the series of barenaked, acoustic guitar ballads—“Leader of the Landslide,” “Left for Denver,” the piano-adorned “My Cell,” and the bluesy and string-laden “Jimmy Sparks”—all of which will remind the initiated of pioneering bands associated with the ’60s phase of the aforementioned genre, such as Incredible String Band (“Painting Box”) and Pentangle (“Hunting Song”). Then, after the short prelude “April,” they then wrap up their latest offering with the reflective balladry of “Salt and the Sea,” swinging and swaying like a lullaby with a hush in a reverie.
While its predecessors shone with their naïve energy and natural rawness of sonic intentions, III is certainly the mark of a band that has gained experience and maturity over the course of its career. They may have explored a few more stylistic avenues, but The Lumineers have remained rooted to wherever they have drawn their influences, carrying these modestly on their bosoms and their records’ sleeves. For these reasons Cryptic Rock gives III 4 out of 5 stars.