It’s been a long time since 2012 and the Lumineers’ debut album was released. Fans have had to wait patiently for a new LP, amidst growing excitement on social media over the last few months, including the announcement of tour dates which has fuelled anticipation. Fast forward to April 2016 and the folk rock alternative darlings are back with album two: Cleopatra.
While Cleopatra is of the same breed, it’s a different beast to the first album. It definitely sounds like the Lumineers. The lyrics are definitely in the style of the Lumineers. But there’s something different here. It sounds patronising to say that there is a more grown up feel, but it’s hard to define what else it is exactly.
The opening half of the album is rousing and has some clear single choices – Ophelia, the lead single is classic Lumineers fare. It’s very catchy and quite upbeat – no doubt it was chosen as the lead single as it’s perfectly palatable to fans both old and new. Track one, Sleep on the Floor encapsulates everything that the Lumineers are about: intricate, story-telling lyrics, gorgeous vocals and music – a clear bridge between the first and the second album.
It’s worth picking up on the lyrics for a moment, actually. There’s no nonsensical I am the Walrus or Jean Genie here; the Lumineers are taking you on a journey with the words they’ve put to paper, they want you to understand every word, every syllable. And my god, there are some breath-taking lyrics. Title track Cleopatra tells the story of an actress’ mishaps in love: ‘I was late for this, late for that, late for the love of my life/and when I die alone, when I die alone, when I die, I’ll die on time’. This theme of deeply personal experience continues into the latter half of the album. Long Way From Home is quietly urgent and irrepressibly sad, like watching someone fade away before your eyes: ‘More morphine were the last words you moaned’.
In contrast to the rousing start of the first half of the album, the second half is more overtly melancholy and reflective. There’s a presence of a tinkly piano on the closing tracks of the album – the thing it brings to mind immediately is old-fashioned fairground music. It jars almost with the morose subject matter but the effect of wistful nostalgia that the two elements create is quite beautiful.
While there are some undeniably beautiful aspects, Cleopatra doesn’t induce feelings of an instant love affair with the record. The lyric writing is accomplished, the music is full of feeling but there’s just that certain spark missing. Perhaps it’s something that will come with more listens. A solid album, but certainly nowhere near the Pharaonic proportions its name suggests – nor as much so as the Lumineers’ debut.
Cleopatra is released on 8 April 2016.