In 2012, beloved folk rock group Fleet Foxes went on hiatus and disappeared, the same year “The Lumineers” was released. This passing of the baton brought a new age of folk fans, who jammed to Mumford & Sons’ banjo strums and clapped along to “Ho Hey.” These fans have waited four years for new music from The Lumineers, and their sophomore album “Cleopatra” delivers. With atmospheric and bittersweet tracks that rely on guitar and vocals, spring is the perfect time of year for this record to be released and for you to give it a listen.
It is clear from the first track, “Sleep on the Floor,” that The Lumineers are back and here to stay in the folk genre. The simple bass drum beat, lyrics about “leaving this town” and a melody that reminds one of being in the mountains combine to make a great opener to an album of purely folk rock.
The general feeling of the album is wonderful for a Fleet Foxes lover like myself: Songs that feel like you’re hearing them live even though you’re listening through headphones, the simple and acoustic instrumentalization, an overall bittersweet tone.
Something else you’ll realize pretty early in the album is that if you’re not a big folk rock fan, just a simple “Ho Hey” lover, you’re not going to want the whole album. Overall, the album is pretty homogenous. This might be expected from a folk record, with its simple instrumentation, but The Lumineers’ first album had more standout tracks. “Submarines” brought in an upbeat feel with heavy percussion and “Stubborn Love” had a loveable and catchy melody. “Ho Hey” was a clear hit, selling over 4 million copies in its first year of release.
The first single off “Cleopatra,” “Ophelia,” could join the ranks of other standout radio hits from “The Lumineers.” It has everyone’s favorites: claps, stomps and tambourines. It’s also a bittersweet love song referencing one of British literature’s most well-known characters. Most importantly (in terms of chart-topping potential), it has a very fun-to-sing and memorable chorus. While the other tracks on the album are still great, none have the same radio power that this track carries. “Cleopatra” will likely please old fans, but it’s unsure if it will attract many new ones.
“Angela” is another song that rises above the others on the album. It starts out incredibly cute, with very soft guitar and calming vocals. I feel like I’m spending a happy, warm spring morning in the grass. “In the Light,” the following track, continues the cute trend with frankly adorable piano and a backing guitar that reminds me of a favorite song of mine, “Death and All His Friends” by Coldplay.
While the album has a lovely springtime vibe, it has an intriguing and somewhat eerie tendency to have surprisingly dark lyrics accompany soft and sweet folk music. In the title track “Cleopatra,” one of the more upbeat and rock-influenced songs, lead singer Wesley Schultz sings “I was late for this, late for that, late for the love of my life / And when I die alone … I’ll be on time.” In “Gun Song,” which is unexpectedly soft for a song with “gun” in the title, the lyrics “I don’t have a sweetheart yet, but if I did I’d break my neck” are as spooky as they get.
The last few tracks on the album are perfect for those who enjoy studying or sleeping to light acoustics. “Gale Song,” “Long Way from Home” “Sick in the Head” and “My Eyes” all made me feel like I should head to the library or take a nap. A sleepy tone takes over for the bittersweet tone of the first half of the album and it’s a great way to slow down as the album reaches its close.
That close happens to be perfect. “Cleopatra” ends on a less-than-two-minute, piano-only instrumental called “Patience.” It’s emotional and quite lovely. I appreciate any album with a good instrumental or some well-done piano, but “Patience” exceeds in being a great way to finish the overall experience of listening to “Cleopatra.”
“Cleopatra” makes me miss Fleet Foxes because it reminds me how much I love good folk records. Maybe the album doesn’t have as many standout tracks or radio-ready chart toppers as The Lumineers’ first album, but it does create a great album experience. It’s perfect for spring, for being transported to another place, for studying, for sleeping and for dreaming.
MOVE gives “Cleopatra” 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Edited by Katie Rosso | firstname.lastname@example.org