Review of The Lumineers Self Titled Debut

Review by Garrett D. Kennedy

the lumineers

First, they reminded me of The Tallest Man on Earth, then the Avett Brothers, the Felice Brothers, and Mumford & Sons. The Lumineers have elements of all those bands, but after about fifty listens in a week to their self-titled debut album, they are their own band. I realized this more around the tenth listen, but the point is – I couldn’t stop listening.

Comparisons are great.  They are a reference when trying to describe music, which is difficult to do without creating your own Spinal Tap-like moment. Describing sound isn’t easy, and I’m not going to begin trying to figure out why a genre is called anti-folk. Furthermore, comparisons are a place to start, so start with those bands in mind, and turn up The Lumineers’ album to eleven – because it’s louder than ten.

In the first song, Flowers in Your Hair, lead singer Wesley Schultz reminded me of The Tallest Man on Earth (aka musician Kristian Matsson), yet with a raspier voice. After the first three songs, the above comparisons stuck, and I was disappointed because I already have those bands’ albums.

On track four, Dead Sea, is where the separation begins, and the album really takes off – becomes addicting. I am not a walking, or typing, advertisement for NPR music. I just find a lot of new music on there, and that is where I first heard The Lumineers. They sang the fifth track and their single, Ho Hey. In an interview on NPR’s Sessions, the band joked they named the single in that order because they didn’t want to say hey to a ho. Comedy may not attract you to listen to a band, but this single will. After first listen,Ho Hey may not stick with you, but…but it’ll call you back when you wake up singing its refrain – “I belong with you / you belong with me / you’re my sweetheart.”

A band’s formation and backstory of tragedy may not make you listen either. But, I’m going to tell you anyways. Jeremiah Fraites lost his nineteen year-old brother to a drug overdose. His brother’s best friend was lead singer Wesley Schultz. Soon after, the two wrote songs and performed in New York as a duo. A move to Denver led them to the third Lumineers’ member, Neyla Pekarek who is a classically trained multi-instrumentalist (allmusic.com).

If you were wondering, classically trained musicians search Craigslist too! And, that’s how the three met. Pekarek responded to the boys’ ad of them looking for a cellist. Her influence on the band is definitely heard, and creates a sound that makes me want to compare, equaling a much cleaner and structured sounding Felice Brothers.

The sixth track, Slow It Down, does just what the song infers. It feels like a blues song and adds more depth to the album. I pictured this fitting in well with the songs on Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s album Howl. This is followed by Stubborn Love, one of the album’s best songs. It keeps building throughout, and ends with the band harmonizing a controlled scream. This captures much of what the Lumineers have to offer, and makes one believe they will be a great live act.

All these songs are emotional, but not to the point of nausea like so many songs out there (a la almost every song performed on American Idol). It is not rocknroll; more along the lines of the Americana genre. Yet, with all its emotion, the Lumineers still kept it a fun album to listen to, resulting in a beautifully executed first album.

Check their touring schedule to see when they play near you: tour dates. I will be catching them live this summer at Central Park SummerStage.