Cleopatra Album Review
he Lumineers (the Denver folk rock band consisting of members Wesley Schultz, Jeremiah Fraites and Neyla Pekarek) highly anticipated sophomore album, Cleopatra, could best be described in one word: underwhelming. That’s not to say that the music isn’t aesthetically good, because it is – there is a reason that it opened at #1 on the Billboard chart with 108,000 sales and is also currently #1 in Canada and Britain. Still, regardless of the strong sales, this album as a whole is a sleeper. Besides one or two tracks, most of the songs are slow moving and melancholy.
Cleopatra focuses mostly on loss and heartache but does no poetic justice to either, which is unfortunate because there are amazing albums out there that were inspired by the same hardships. The Lumineers haven’t quite perfected the balance of making optimistic music to offset the pessimistic music. There’s nothing wrong with a good ole’ moody break-up/small-town blues album, but for the sake of the overall tone, there should at least be a few sanguine tracks at some point. You would be hard-pressed to find that here.
To focus on what The Lumineers did right: the thigh-hitting/happy-clapping folk-rock sound that they showcased with their first self-titled album still seeps through the cracks. They’ve stayed true to their sound even though they found most of their success with their popular single, “Ho Hey” which was overly radio-friendly – not exactly the kind of music they are in the habit of making. While other bands decide to venture out of their comfort zone and try out new things (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) The Lumineers stay true to their roots in spite of knowing what could end up as a moneymaking hit. For that, you should respect what they tried to do with Cleopatra.
My favorite song on Cleopatra is “Gale Song”, a slow tune that embodies the journey of finding closure in a fulfilling way. “And I won’t fight in vain, I’ll love you just the same. I couldn’t know what’s in your mind, but I saw the pictures, you’re looking fine. / And there was a time when I stood in line, for love, for love, for love. / And this blood, this blood, this blood, oh, it drains from my skin, it does.” Is “Gale Song” about an ex? An old friend? An enemy? It doesn’t matter, the entire song is beautiful.
There are a few other decent songs too, like “The Gun Song”, a song about a boy seeking the kind of love from his father that his father only lovingly gives to his Smith & Wesson. “Cleopatra”, a song inspired by a taxi driver who Schultz met, is lyrically the most somber but is sang in a such a fleeting way that you wouldn’t know it was sad if you weren’t investing in the words.
The one song that is closest to a happy ending actually comes in the beginning of the album: “Ophelia”. “Ophelia” is a song inspired by a girl who has ‘big plans’ that don’t include the person singing about her, who has a form of unrequited love for her even though that person is with somebody else. The piano is the real star on this song, as the keys are pressed joyfully enough to introduce smitten lyrics alongside of a perky chorus. “Ophelia” is indeed a great song, and makes you remember that The Lumineers are capable of making colorful folk music, which is something they should focus on. One of the many goals any band/musician should have is to make art that leaves people better off than they were before (especially on the very crucial second album) regardless of whether or not it is somber or cheerful. The trick is to find a happy medium between both…something you won’t find on Cleopatra.