Lumineers Strip Back and Create Compassion Album to Spotify and Chill with Brightside
4.1 out of 5 stars
I have been a casual fan of The Lumineers for quite some time now (better part of a decade), and I can say they do make good music. I don’t like every song though. They are a bit like Coldplay for me. When a song works, it works. When it doesn’t, it’s just not good at all.
Well, the new album Brightside by The Lumineers has a bit of both in it, but overall, it’s a good album. I just wish it wasn’t full of the same clichés that I see in some of their songs that aren’t very good.
The first song on the album is the title track “Brightside,” and it is a song that tries to use some basic songwriting tropes to inspire relatability in the song, but, for me at least, this one just doesn’t work. Using specific examples of places and things (Tacoma, Oldsmobile, The Dark Side of the Moon) doesn’t point to a reason we as listeners should relate to the song. Usually, when a song is more specific, it works well. However, there isn’t enough specificity in the rest of the song to really make it relatable, and just using proper nouns here and there seems more like product placement than sentimentalism.
“A.M. Radio” is the second song on the album, and it brings things out in a much better way, and in a lot of ways redeems the half-hearted effort of “Brightside.” The lyrics are more specific about actions and emotions than places and things which makes it a lot more relatable. Also, the fact that it is a song for a broken relationship makes it universally understandable. The chorus also belts out anthemically much like the best songs The Lumineers put out.
That style and sound carries over to the next song “Where We Are.” This is a very laid back sounding song, but the song is talking about being lost, driving in the rain, and getting into a car accident that lead singer Wesley Schultz was in with his wife. So, the subject matter definitely fits the sound of the song. The chorus is absolutely a sing-a-long song too. It’s a bit reminiscent of a Cold War Kids type of chorus, in my opinion.
The song “Birthday” reminds me a bit of “Take a Walk” by Passion Pit in the sense that it details the struggles of a family going through hard times, but they are still trying to make the most of it. I am never really a fan of a song that will clearly be turned into a song that fits a specific occasion. I imagine this will be played at a few birthday parties and on commercials / TV / movies to celebrate birthdays. This one isn’t as directly marketed to that concept, but it does take away from the sentiment, in my opinion.
The song “Big Shot” is definitely more aligned with songs like “Hey Ho” where it is 90% chorus and repeated enough to make you be able to sing at least some of the words by the end of the song. Whether you like that about a song or not, it’s catchy. It’s just not quite as good as some of their past hits.
“Never Really Mine” is actually a really good song, in my opinion. It’s very simple with just guitar and singing for most of the song, and then it builds through a bridge to add drums. The best part of this song (and possibly this album) is the line “All of a sudden you’re falling out of frame. I was looking through the camera, you’re looking for a way out.” When said in the terms of a relationship that is about to end, that line is as poignant as it gets.
“Rollercoaster” is a pretty dark sounding song played mostly on piano and accompanied by guitar. I can’t quite make out what the song is actually trying to convey, but it is definitely a bit emotionally unstable with lines like “Everyone was wrong. I was on the ledge. Everyone was only flies in a web.”
“Remington” is probably the song I would least likely play more than one time. It doesn’t really stand out in any way to me, and as soon as it starts, it is pretty much over.
“Reprise” is the final song on the album, and it is meant to be referencing the first song “Brightside” as it has some of the same lyrics and melodies. Oddly enough, I actually like it better than “Brightside.”
One thing to note is that The Lumineers don’t have the same band they used to when they were churning out radio hits. They are pretty much just the 2 founding members still actively creating music with some additional help here and there. So, the big sound that The Lumineers became famous for is mostly absent in this album.
Still, if you are a fan, you will probably enjoy specific elements or a few songs on this album even though the energy level is definitely not high. It’s easy to feel bogged down in lyrics and overall melancholy when listening to this album. So, if you are not in a mentally healthy place, you may want to listen to something with a bit more tempo before and after this album or take it in chunks.