Release Date: Apr 3, 2012
Record label: Dualtone Music
Genre(s): Country, Folk, Alt-Country, Americana, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Contemporary Folk, Country-Folk, Heartland Rock, Alternative Folk, Folk-Pop
The debut from this Colorado crew basically argues that a bunch of Americans can lead slowly-accelerating lovelorn singalongs just as well as UK yankophile Marcus Mumford, bringing fiddle scratching, marching-band snare rolls, parlor-room piano chords, and Kingston Trio guitar strumming to an album that’s long on nostalgic reverie. "American Bandstand, electric guitar" frontman Wesley Schultz sings over handclaps in "Big Parade," which evokes the JFK era; "Flapper Girl" is a piano ditty that conjures the days of prohibition. But the central concern is present-tense lust and heartache, which this spirited band translates into a fine drunk-clogging soundtrack.
The Lumineers’ debut record is instantly gratifying—and not in the hasty, shallow way often found in pre-fab pop songs either. While some records take days or months to properly digest, there’s an instant connection here similar to that sonic euphoria many people found upon hearing their first roaring Mumford song, favorite Dylan lyric or perfect Head and The Heart harmony. The camaraderie is evident both onstage and on the record.
The Lumineers, a folk-rock trio out of Denver, Colorado, have a pretty interesting sound, an Americana mesh of folk, rock, and gospel that is similar in tone to the Waterboys, say, or an alt-folk version of Bob Dylan circa Desire, thanks in no small part to Neyla Pekarek's inventive cello. And there are some very good tracks on this debut album, including the chamber honky tonk of "Dead Sea," the delightfully goofy but then ultimately sad and elegant "Submarines," and "Stubborn Love," which manages to be bright and chiming while also being haunting and mournful. Not everything here clicks together at that level, but each track is inventive, and when the songwriting and arrangements cross paths perfectly, as they do in the above songs, this is a delightful band.
One of the most talked about acts at this year's SXSW festival, Denver trio the Lumineers' indie-folk stylings have won them a sizable following in the States. A radio-friendly hybrid of Arcade Fire's passion and Mumford & Sons' accessibility, it's easy to see them replicating their success here, and their debut album certainly has its moments. The stomping single Ho Hey is simple, direct and infectious, while Dead Sea highlights Wesley Schultz's heart-tugging turns of phrase.
The trouble with so much modern roots music is how rootless it sounds. The Lumineers – raised in New Jersey, based in Colorado – use every trick possible to give the impression that they're stomping in the dust of the 1930s depression: a shellac crackle in the recording of Flapper Girl; aqueous banjo and footsoldier drums in Charlie Boy; simplicity and spaciousness throughout. When it works, they convey some of the spirited vitality, not to mention oddity, of Harry Smith's anthology of music from that era: Submarines, set to clomping piano, is a singular tale of a man whose sea visions go disbelieved, while Flowers in Your Hair addresses growing pains with pleasing acerbity.
By now, comparisons between this Denver Americana trio and UK folk-rockers Mumford & Sons are well documented. Both groups belong to the roots revivalist movement flooding the indie consciousness, but there's something more compelling about the Lumineers. For starters, there's the sepia-toned aesthetic evoked by Neyla Pekarek's soulful contributions on violin and mandolin, capturing both nostalgia and mourning in her bow on "Stubborn Love." Frontman Wesley Schultz's unpolished vocals, playing the ruffian to romance your prim princess in "Classy Girls," accomplishes much of the remaining heavy lifting, but there's more: the shouts, the claps, the stomps.