Indie music has experienced a surge in popularity over the past few years—and in the forefront of this movement have been The Lumineers. The Denver trio’s 2012 self-titled debut album was a widely popular commercial success and produced many fan favorite songs—from “Ho Hey” to “Submarines”—that have become indie radio mainstays. After a three-year hiatus, The Lumineers returned with their anticipated sophomore album Cleopatra on April 8. With 11 songs and just over 30 minutes in length, Cleopatra is a tight album. It successfully hits its Americana target with an aura of folk rock that is accessible and doesn’t overstay its welcome—a common issue with some music of that genre.
As an album, Cleopatra is a mixed bag. Many songs have the classic Lumineers sound that fans love, such as “Ophelia,” the album’s first single. The song contains melancholy lyrics, but also includes an upbeat, catchy instrumental that gives the listener a number of ways to find meaning in the song, as well as have a very pleasurable listening experience.
With other Cleopatra songs, however, this formula is not nearly as successful. The juxtaposition of feelings in some songs can come across as forced at times. Some lyrics fall flat and fail to stir the emotions that they aim for, making the songs seem like generic versions of earlier Lumineer hits. On the less impressive songs, the band tends to sound like a generic folk-rock band, which is unfortunate because they are much more than that.
In the vastly popular genre of indie music, it’s imperative to stay ahead of the curve sonically; if you don’t, you run the real risk of fading into obscurity. This was seen with popular folk rock band Mumford & Sons, who changed their sound completely with their most recent album in an attempt to avoid pigeonholing themselves into a certain sound in which they may not have been able to escape from.
The good outweighs the bad on Cleopatra, though, with many standout songs. “Ophelia,” the title track “Cleopatra” and “Long Way from Home” are all songs that manage to find the magic with the music that made The Lumineers a popular band in the first place. It is songs like these that make up for those that don’t quite live up to the listeners’ expectations.
Though offering some new sonic pathways not explored before, Cleopatra is not the standout sophomore effort fans may have expected. In some respects, it feels as though the band is keeping their cards too close to their chest instead of exploring a new sound. The pure talent of The Lumineers, however, helps save this album, making it a very pleasurable listen overall—despite the times when they seem to miss their mark.
The Lumineers are undeniably good—even on Cleopatra’s lesser offerings—and they have set themselves up for quite a successful career. It’s likely that they will be making enjoyable music for years to come and it will be interesting to see what they have learned from their work on this album and what direction they take their music next.