The Lumineers – The LumineersCultureMusicAlbum reviews
To say there has been an influx of indie-folk music in recent years would not be giving the genre enough credit. The meteoric rise of banjo-toting, rabble rousing, Radio 2-friendly four piece Mumford & Sons has brought in its slipstream an enormous surge of acts, all of whom seem desperate to reinstate an age of campfire sing-a-longs and boot-stomping roots music.
The issue is that roots music should have deep-rooted origins, and the vast majority of modern acts clinging desperately to this bandwagon sound depressingly inauthentic. It’s this issue that plagues The Lumineers on their debut album.
They try very, very hard to convey a sense of sepia-tinged folksiness through simple songs with the sort of band-of-brothers vocal chanting now so firmly ingrained in this genre. From the audible pops and crackles splattered across the slightly wonky piano of Flapper Girl, to the marching drums and chorus chants of Flowers in Your Hair, it all feels a little contrived, like Disney does Of Mice and Men.
The issue is one of authenticity; folk music succeeds or fails on the conviction of its playing and content. At times the band hint towards what they could possibly become, if they allowed themselves to simply unfurl a larger degree of boldness instead of succumbing to sugar coated cliché. The cello on Dead Sea carves through the track with vicious gusto and lead single Ho Hey is a genuinely rousing and fun affair to hum along to. Mournful closer Morning Song actually suggests that perhaps The Lumineers have some real heart in there somewhere.
Unfortunately, these moments are few and far between, and the music predominantly sets up camp as “middle of the road”. Live, they put on a good show; as a mid-way point between Mumford & Sons’ folk-pop credentials and Arcade Fire’s propensity for grandiose vocal chanting, The Lumineers’ big choruses and foot stomps are naturally more engaging in person.
There’s enough here to suggest that if The Lumineers stop trying quite so hard to evoke a romanticised view of a bygone era, and focused on where their musical strengths, they could make more interesting music. As it stands, they currently have a way to go.
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Watch the video for Ho Hey here: