When “Ho Hey” came out in 2012, it was inescapable. It was being play on most radio stations, plenty of commercials, trailers, etc. This was okay at first, but the song got old fast. It was the kind of inoffensive folk rock song that was cute enough to make it big in the mainstream. It just did not seem impressive, especially coming out after Mumford and Sons was already doing folk rock better.
Clearly my expectations were clearly not through the roof, and after listening I feel like my expectations were appropriate. This is because that this album is pretty unsatisfying on almost all layers. The songs are underwritten and underdeveloped, causing this album to be largely forgettable.
The first half is definitely much stronger, providing the album’s more memorable songs. The opener “Sleep on the Floor” is memorable because of how frustrating it is. Lyrically it is fine and lead singer Wesley Schultz delivers but it is such a blatant copy of “Ho Hey.” As soon as the first chords are played I heard it and could not let go of how much it annoyed me. After almost four years between albums you would think they could write something new.
Next is “Ophelia,” the first single from this record. The song is about looking back at an old relationship, even after life has moved forward from there. The song definitely falls into the same category as “Ho Hey” as it is fluffy and light but does not really pack much of an emotional punch. The fluttering piano and nice flow make it memorable but considering the charts have already forgotten about this one, I doubt it will be overplayed like “Ho Hey.”
The title track is actually one of the best songs on here, and definitely surprised me. Schultz sings from the perspective of Cleopatra who famously was forced to marry for power and did not get to be with the person she truly loved. The framing then shows that Schultz is seeing Cleopatra he identifies with. The lyrics are deep and require analysis and while I feel the song is just shy of great, it is worth a listen.
The symbolic songs continue with “Gun Song” where a gun is representation of maturity. The metaphor is interesting and could have made for a great song but sadly this track is not written to the extent it needs to be. It is only a little over three and a half minutes and a large portion of that is wasted on hearing “la la la la la” repeated over and over.
“Angela” is another great track, mainly because of how much I personally connect to the lyrical content of it. The titular Angela is escaping her hometown, seemingly leaving behind Schultz, to find herself. The resolve is that Angela comes back “home at last” to be with Schultz and we get a sense of how he was been dealing with her absence. I, myself, have been in a committed long distance relationship with my girlfriend who is at school back in Massachusetts. I connect with the character of Angela who needs to be free to find herself, but still ends up coming back home.
After this emotional climax, the album never hits the highs of that track. There are moments I enjoy like “Gale Song” which was featured on the Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack all the way back in 2013. The song is written from the perspective of the character Gale from the Hunger Games franchise, but can still be enjoyed without any context from the movies. The song does fit on this album better than expected, but I was still disappointed that they decided to throw such an old song on here.
I was hoping that “Long Way From Home” would grow on me with time but sadly it does not. The song is far from bad and is coming from a very personal place as the lyrics are from the point of view of a man dying in a hospital room. Schultz’ vocal delivery is great, channeling the late Jeff Buckley, someone I am sure has been an influence to him. He shares memories and regrets but the song does not go far enough to be as emotional as it could have been. The song is only two and a half minutes long, which is much to short for any folk song, especially one like this.
I am sure fans of The Lumineers will love this and want to analyze every single lyrics, and there are definitely moments I enjoyed looking into, but I wish those moments were more plentiful. With a few years to prepare, I really was hoping for more than this, and maybe in a few years the group will put out something great. This needs to come quick though because I am not sure how relevant this group can remain if they keep putting out material like this.
Best Tracks: Cleopatra, Angela, Gale Song, My Eyes
Worst Track: In the Light