By now, comparisons between this Denver Americana trio and UK folk-rockers Mumford & Sons are well documented. Both groups belong to the roots revivalist movement flooding the indie consciousness, but there’s something perhaps more essentially “American” about the Lumineers, difference which while appreciative of one and other clearly sets the two apart.
For starters, there’s the sepia-toned aesthetic evoked by Neyla Pekarek’s soulful contributions on violin and mandolin, capturing both nostalgia and mourning in her bow on “Stubborn Love.” Frontman Wesley Schultz’s unpolished vocals, playing the ruffian to romance your prim princess in “Classy Girls,” accomplishes much of the remaining heavy lifting, but there’s more: the shouts, the claps, the stomps. The general expansiveness of sound on songs like “Ho Hey” make this young group’s eponymous debut uniquely American in all the best ways: gritty, determined, soaked in sweat and love and drive. There’s nothing precious or affected here, just three dedicated artists opening their hearts.
The rustic trio marries uplifting jubilee and poetic earnestness with ease. The foot stomping single “Ho Hey” builds momentum with a tambourine and carries the melody with spirited chants and hand claps, a track so cheerful and exhilarating, it seems built for a live stage.
The album is overflowing with upbeat, Americana gems with sassy songs like “Flowers In Your Hair” and “Classy Girls,” but the real power here is found in the more somber tunes. There’s an ornate sadness in “Slow It Down,” a highlight track where the focal point is Wesley’s pained vocals, as he sings “I feel a filth in bones, wash off my hands till it’s gone.”
They say music and pain have a symbiotic relationship, and maybe that’s why The Lumineers resonate so deeply. Schultz and Fraites formed the band after Fraites’ younger brother and Schultz’s best friend died of a drug overdose at a young age. The pair picked up the pieces, forged a friendship through their mutual loss, and later found Pekarek and the formula for The Lumineers.