We undoubtedly live in the era of Americana-inspired folk-rock groups. First we had Mumford & Sons and Fleet Foxes, followed by The Head and the Heart. All are huge, two of these groups only sporting one widely released full-length record. The Lumineers are about to join this club.
Stylistically, The Lumineers remind me of a slightly less piano-driven version of the Head and the Heart. The vocals have more punch as well. Take smash single “Ho Hey” for example: this short, peppy love song is accentuated by background shouts which might bother some people but the effect solidly sticks the song in your head. Corporate America has picked up on this for better or for worse, placing the song in prominent advertising (watched anything on Hulu recently?). The band, despite existing since 2002 has only begun to break out as of late 2011 due to this fortunate ad-placement. I digress though; the trio makes thoroughly enjoyable folk music using their smaller size to make a complete sounding record anyway, similar to two-piece Blind Pilot.
The Head and the Heart comparisons begin with the first track, which clocks in at just under two minutes (sound familiar yet? *cough* “Cats and Dogs” *cough*) but I am willing to chalk this up to coincidence rather than copycatting. “Classy Girls” follows with a bluegrass-y wail amidst a higher than usual folk melody on acoustic guitar which gives way to cheery percussion and strings. The track is over too soon, with a less is more vibe. Loud percussion juxtaposes piano quiet guitar in “Submarines.” Loud effects juxtaposing other elements of the song continue on the aforementioned “Ho Hey.” These effects are contrasted with the longer, quieter tunes such as the appropriately titled “Slow it Down” which has vocals so desperate midway through that they border on being out of tune. The highlights of the slow stuff are yet to come, though.
“Charlie Boy” and “Morning Song” end the record on a wistful note. The latter has the tempo of a ballad but not the cheese. The song turns more desperate as it evolves, even giving the illusion of speeding up before it abruptly ends. “Charlie Boy” carries almost a celtic feel with its sparse acoustic guitar amidst haunting vocals. The pair of tracks sandwich the more cheerful “Flapper Girl” which still carries somewhat of a pensive mood.
The Lumineers take the best elements of their genre counterparts and combine them into one effective album. Their popularity is rising such that I wonder why it took them so many years to find their big break. In any case, I hope to learn even more about them when they play Columbus, Ohio’s Summerfest concert with Metric, Ben Kweller, Civil Twilight, and others.