By: Renee Canada
Whether you want to term them Americana, alt-folk, or roots revivalists, The Lumineers have that rare gift to pluck at the heartstrings of its audience with elegant simplicity and timeless storytelling. Whether rousing foot-stompers or languorous ballads, the band’s songs have an ability to deeply resonate and create solidarity with its audience and to lift them out of time and space, bringing them on a journey that is both emotional, yet soulfully pleasing.
The Lumineer’s eponymous self-recorded EP opens with Flowers in Your Hair, an all-too-brief ditty with a driving rhythm, twangy banjo picking, and a nostalgic vocal melody. It’s a song you want to drive through dusty roads to, with bare arms and hands dangling out of the open window, and—dare I say—flowers in your hair. The band prides itself on the cinematic quality of its songs, and it blissfully delivers (if you have no idea what we’re talking about, you should read Hey, Eddie Vedder, Was There Music Before Video?)
The meteoric popularity of the album’s lead song “Ho Hey” is no surprise as a heartbreakingly sincere breakup song, with the catchy repetition of the title phrase and the encouraged audience participation reminding us this love-lost feeling is something we’ve all experienced and survived. Handclaps and foot stomps accentuate the acoustic guitar, mandolin and tambourine bringing a playfulness that breeds hope.
The band delves into deeper territory with songs like “Submarines” and “Charlie Boy.” While the former has a very playful, piano-driven melody, the song is more mature “boy who cried wolf.” It explores the concept of a narrator seeing a great danger to many yet lacking the voice to be believed; without credibility, he is considered a liar, laughed at, and patronized. “Charlie Boy” takes a decidedly more solemn and sparse turn, portraying life during World War II during the ‘40s, where patriotism, meant serving the war effort on the battlefield. In the face of death, boys were told to play their bugles, shoot their rifles and “make your mothers proud.”
Bandleader, guitarist and lead vocalist Wesley Schulz cites Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen as great influences, and hints of Ryan Adams can also be heard in these tracks. Yet while many are quick to compare the band to Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers, The Lumineers carves its own, unique path that harkens back to a primal, sparse songwriting of grassroots folk with an atmospheric sophistication and, sometimes, almost pop sensibility.