- 13 Sep 19
Indie-folksters paint tender portrait of addiction.
If you weren’t paying close attention, it would be very easy to dismiss The Lumineers. Emerging with the inescapable mega-hit ‘Ho Hey’ in 2012, they were chucked in a box with the likes of Of Monsters And Men and Mumford & Sons – both bearers of that somewhat oxymoronic title, indie-folk superstars.
Since their unassumingly fun self-titled debut, however, The Lumineers’ sound has taken a turn down a dirt road into something more thoughtful and dark, culminating in III: a tender portrait of addiction and its impact on a working class family. It’s ambitious stuff for a chart-friendly group, but through a stripped-back folk approach that shrugs off the pop sheen and lets the story take centre stage, they pull it off admirably.
From the first punchy piano notes on opener ‘Donna’, tinged with as much nostalgia as a yellowing photograph, the scene is set. Wesley Schultz’s voice has never sounded better, and softens the edges of his viciously honest, platitude-free lyrics about the reality of addiction: “Maybe when she’s dead and gone I’ll get some sleep,” he sings on ‘Leader Of The Landslide’.
While there’s no ocean-transcending stadium anthems to be found here, The Lumineers of old haven’t completely disappeared. Lead single ‘Gloria’ covers familiar territory, with plenty of campfire-song stomping, heavy strumming and sing-a-long oohhhs. Even when they’re not breaking any new ground musically, however, the shadowy details in the lyrics continue to draw you in, particularly on songs like ‘Jimmy Sparks’ – which is packed with the kind of sensitively drawn characters, from loan sharks to runaway mothers, that populate the works of Bruce Springsteen and Mick Flannery.
With III, The Lumineers have defied the norms of today’s playlist-oriented streaming culture, by presenting an album that’s best appreciated as a whole, rather than via-its individual parts. Aside from three bizarrely misplaced bonus tracks, III is a stunning effort that both deserves and requires repeated listens.