The Tempo: Cleopatra

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Photo by Laura Kreider, USAG Vicenza/PAO

The two-time Grammy nominated folk-rock band The Lumineers perform at the Fitness Center on Caserma Ederle Dec. 5. The 90-minute concert was part of supporting the USO’s “Every Moment Counts” campaign and visiting troops this holiday. Learn more on www.usag.vicenza.army.mil or www.facebook.com/usagvicenza.

On April 8th, the indie rock band The Lumineers released their sophomore album, Cleopatra. The deluxe album consists of fifteen songs, while the original album, and the one I’m reviewing today contains eleven. The album includes the singles “Ophelia” and “Angela”.

I was afraid to review this album, because of their prior over-played radio singles that seemed to butcher this group’s raw sound and mood. Being a minor music snob, I wanted to avoid a “main-stream” and overplayed artist that frequents the top pop charts. When pop radio started playing their songs that felt more under the alternative/indie/folk genre, it made me sick to my stomach.However, the genre that The Lumineers falls under made me slightly less hesitant, as well as my liking of their single Ophelia. I did enjoy their debut album, my favorite being “Stubborn Love”.

The album opens with “Sleep On The Floor”, which proves as a great opener. There appears so be some melodic referencing to the guitar riffs on their self-titled album. I enjoyed the idea of this song, as a beckoning someone to come on a trip with them, which most likely is referencing the journey of the album. Lyrically it’s a great start.

The second song, and the main single, “Ophelia” is definitely a catchy single, however will most likely fall victim to mainstream radio butchering.

“Cleopatra” which is the track that names the album, holds a different mood, most likely because of the musical style. It references a more vintage rock in both the vocal and musical lines, especially the featuring of an electric guitar. This song is one of my favorites all around lyrically and musically.

Around this time in the album, each song demonstrates a definitive storyline, with a beginning, middle, and end. This lyrical journey is something I greatly admire in this album, and specifically with The Lumineers. Continuing on this path, “Gun Song” tells another almost comical story, but maintains a darker background meaning. The path this song takes feels like an excerpt of any high school kid’s diary, complete with a section that repeats “La la la la”.  This song creates an ebb and flow with the vocal phrases and the gradual build of instruments. I truly enjoyed the unraveling that occurs in this song, and the eventual reprise of the beginning of the song.

“Angela” is probably the most personal song on the album to the songwriter(s). This song has a beautiful weight to it, specifically because of a specific name in the title. The meaning can be different to everyone, but it holds a raw mystery due to the mood. I found this one to be really beautiful. “In The Light” follows as what seems like the heartbreak after the love in “Angela”. This one to me was very repetitive, and I couldn’t get into this song as much. In the end it is still a good song, just probably a lower point for me as a listener.

As the album is a little over halfway over, “Angela” serves as the turning point of the album, because of the mood shift to more pain and darker underlying stories. We continue into this path with “Gale Song”. It references very old and traditional folk. I love this song, both musically and lyrically. It struck a chord with me, because I generally listened to traditional and older folk music growing up. The song reminded me of someone dying. I originally thought this song would upset me because ‘love’ songs are repetitive by The Lumineers and this album. However, heartbreak comes in many fashions.

To continue this thematic journey, next is “Long Way From Home”  which is a very short song, however The Lumineers seem to always make each song the perfect length, to form a full cohesive song, and then a flourishing album. This song is also very personal to listeners, because everyone seems to have a moment like the one described through the song, and the end of the song reveals that home can be on earth but also in the afterlife.

“Sick In The Head” emulates the angsty teenager anthem, however this song can represent any person who is having their future written for them. More of some of the best lyrics are in this song. The humming melody at the end was powerful touch. This one is also another one of my favorites.

By “My Eyes”, the album seems to blend together, and this song isn’t as definitive. I enjoyed the musical choices, and how the ‘you’ that’s spoken of is more of a reference to life itself. In this genre, however, as well as this artist specifically, after a while the songs aren’t able to stand out as much.

The transition between “My Eyes” and the final song is beautiful. While taking notes I found myself writing this comment in all caps and plenty of exclamation points. “Patience”, the final song, is instrumental. This can be very dangerous if not executed correctly, however The Lumineers finds the ebb and flow of this song to keep the listener’s attention, and they end the song at only 1 minute and 37 seconds, which seems like a perfect length. I admired this choice greatly, because some of my favorite artists have done this very well, to emulate a very emotional journey. A musical choice that is commendable is the use of thee melody, in that it doesn’t just leap to where it is going, it either climbs or falls. Halfway into the song, the piano stretches into the lower octave, and then it swells. It falls just on the cusp of theatricality. Keeping this song piano-centric was a great choice as well. I’m really hoping that they cleverly connect the central melody of this song into the opening of their next album.

Overall, only a few songs become overly repetitive for me, which is a great feat by The Lumineers, especially in their genre, because of the instruments involved that seem to prevent variety. I greatly enjoyed the thematic journey of the album as well. The lyrics and melodies are simple, yet are found to be powerful and poignant. I highly recommend this album for anyone going on a drive, or if they are spending moments alone, and to specifically listen to the album in order. The timing of this album’s release is perfect for it to gain momentum before the summer months.

Listen to Cleopatra here: spotify

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