Album review: ‘Cleopatra’ not up to par

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Album review: ‘Cleopatra’ not up to par

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It’s been four years since the Denver-based The Lumineers released their premier, self-titled album, which blew up overnight with a myriad of “ho’s” and “hey’s.” Founding members Wesley Schultz (lead vocals, guitar) and Jeremiah Fraites (drums, percussion) started the band in the heartfelt mourning of friend and brother Josh Fraites in 2002. From this downcast origin, the band slowly developed into what we know today, acquiring cellist and vocalist Neyla Pekarek in 2010.

On April 8, The Lumineers released their greatly anticipated sophomore album, “Cleopatra.” It takes on a far more serious tone than “The Lumineers” and sounds as though the band is trying to move away from the light-hearted, foot-stomping fun of their hits “Ho Hey” and “Big Parade.” Unfortunately, what is lacking from “Cleopatra” is the sound that kept people listening to The Lumineers’ first album. Their original songs had enchanting percussion and unique vocals that made you want to listen to the next track. Clearly, they weren’t all hits, but it was a pleasant album with a positive, uplifting mood. “Cleopatra” could be described as the debut album’s less fun, overly dramatic brother who complains about his ex-girlfriend when you ask how his weekend went. The albums don’t sound entirely dissimilar, but other than “Ophelia,” which is the only potential hit, there is a significant lack of percussion that The Lumineers excelled at in the first album.

Albeit, a change of tone and content could be the direction the band wants to take; they drew lyrics from a deeper, more emotional place. The lyrics tell stories of past loves, missing home and the disappointment of what fame truly is. Many of the songs are reminiscent of the past, and others seem to be full of regret, with no apparent reason to the order of the songs. In fact, the closing song is a short instrumental piece titled “Patience” and is an undeniably disappointing ending to the album. It almost feels like The Lumineers have no idea where their initial success came from and are under the impression that folk music has to be quiet, slow and totally absent of coherent lyrics. Admittedly, the overall sound of “Cleopatra” is pleasant and without any unlistenable tracks, but it simply isn’t up to par with their first album.

Despite the surprising dullness of this album, two of the eleven songs on the album stuck with me. “Ophelia” has a unique, energetic piano part and deftly utilizes Schultz’s unique, gravelly voice. It also holds onto to the joyous tambourine and stomping sound from the first album. “Ophelia” gives us a relatable and understandable story of falling too deeply in love too soon – as opposed to some of their others, such as “Gale Song,” which mutters nonsense at the audience until a grand climax of a guitar strumming slightly louder than at the song’s beginning. The second track on “Cleopatra” that caught my ear was “Sick in the Head.” It starts off with some vocals different from the usual acoustic sound, and it seems as though it was altered slightly, giving a very different feel from most of The Lumineers’ music.

Even with the slow, quietness of the album, which can be a bummer at times, “Cleopatra” still comes across as a solid album of background tunes. Unfortunately, it simply doesn’t compare to The Lumineers’ first album, and likely will have been better received had their debut album not set the bar so high. The more loyal fans that The Lumineers acquired over the past four years will likely enjoy this new release, but I’m afraid that it will not pick up a fresh audience. If you haven’t yet listened to “Cleopatra” you should give it a shot, but don’t expect to be blown away.