It's a perfect lift-off for The Lumineers first album says Cynthia Orland0.
Really great music makes us smile, tap our toes, gets our hearts to open wide. By these standards, the new self-titled debut CD by American folk rock band The Lumineers is one that merits our attention.
Their new labor of love opens with "Flowers in Your Hair," a meandering, warmly acoustic, upbeat look-back at young love punctuated with great uplifting harmonies. We can't help but smile inwardly at the live bar banter used as backdrop on its playful follow-up, "Classy Girls (Don't Kiss in Bars, You Fool)." And as the storyline picks up, so does the tempo. Don't let the "folk" part of folk-rock put you off 'cause there's a lotta shouting, clapping, and foot-stomping on this album.
"Dead Sea" slows things down a bit, but is no less stirring. It brings songwriters like Dylan to mind, and wouldn't you know, in a recent interview appearing on CNN band members confess to being long-time admirers of Dylan and The Beatles. There's even an old YouTube floating around out there of them covering Dylan's "When the Ship Comes In."
Lively arrangements and original songwriting seem to come naturally to this talented trio from Denver-via-New York City. Here's the skinny: two out of three band members, songwriters Wesley Schultz (guitar and lead vocals) and Jeremy Fraites (drums) hail from NYC. After relocating to Denver, they fortuitously advertised for a cellist, thereby snagging the talented Neyla Pakarek (cello, mandolin, piano, vocals) through an ad on Craigslist. Good work, guys.
"Ho Hey" is only one of several outstanding tracks to this noteworthy launch, one that's sure to bring crowds to their feet for audience participation at live performances along the concert circuit. And hey, isn't it a sight for sore eyes to see a music video so tastefully compliment the song it's supposed to help sell? Nicely done.
Electric guitar chords do a slow smolder behind the sultry "Slow it Down," sounding more like an early Rolling Stones tune than something from 2012. And no, that's not a bad thing.
The romantic "Flapper Girl" marries a classic, catchy, cleanly-played piano melody with sweet, original lyrics reminiscent of something music legend Randy Newman might put forth - including these lines: "Cut off all of your hair / Did you flinch, did you care / Did he look, did he stop and stare / At your brand new hair? / Would you write would you call back baby if / I wrote you a song / I been gone, but you're still my lady and / I need you at home."
Is there more where this came from?
Heck, yeah. There's lots more to love on "Big Parade" and "Charlie Boy." The former is a fun, spritely and colorful account of the celebration and revelry found at a holiday parade; storytelling at its best. Include it in your 4th of July gathering and maybe friends and family will join you for the spirited chorus.
Mandolin, violin, and touching vocals on the delicate "Charlie Boy" - a story of war and a soldier's lament - maintain a perfect balance between tension and resolution. This one really ought to be played by radio stations every Veteran's Day. Do we sense a patriotic theme here?
If by some stroke of serendipity another single is released from these eleven tracks, let's put our money on "Stubborn Love," a song getting lots of attention on Twitter. Most certainly this threesome seems to be dripping with talent - "Stubborn Love" is a great arrangement for guitar, drums and violin with a sweeping cadence and perfect harmonies on the choruses. Doesn't really get much better. Lastly, "Morning Song" describes a bitter breakup, but darned if the main refrain doesn't just draw us in anyway, bringing to mind Neil Young or Crazy Horse with its grainy, fuzzy, emphatic-sounding electric guitar.
Are The Lumineers a little bit like the Avett Brothers? Kind of. More like Mumford and Sons? Sort of. Are they their own exclusive flavor of musical ice cream? Yeah, that's it.
Honorable mentions: "Flowers in Your Hair," "Classy Girls," "Slow it Down," "Charlie Boy."
Takeaway message: Whether or not this one gets a nod at next year's Grammies is anyone's guess; as long as the band continues to learn and grow together, they should do well over the long-haul. We'll all likely still be enjoying these songs twenty years from now - and no matter where the road takes them, The Lumineers seem destined for the good life.