Good things came in ‘IIIs’ for The Lumineers
Dessi Gomez | Tuesday, September 17, 2019
On Friday, The Lumineers released the remainder of their third album, called “III.” This remainder, part of the album’s three-chapter serial output, contained the final four songs to complement the six songs already out in the world.
Chapter I, “Gloria Sparks,” was released in May and introduced the world to The Lumineers’ newest project through the songs “Gloria,” “Donna” and “Life in The City.” “Gloria” was the first single released, and its tempo matched past songs while its lyrics and themes gave a glimpse of what would come. Gloria herself is addicted to alcohol, and listeners learn about her character as a mother in a family as well as her relationship with her mother, “Donna.” “Donna” slows down, providing more backstory to Gloria herself. “Life in The City,” while slow, is less solemn than “Donna.” Its piano notes remind listeners of “Submarines” off The Lumineers’ first album. This song provides a nostalgic flashback since it contains a rendition of the closing lyrics to “Sleep on the Floor” from The Lumineers’ second album, “Cleopatra.”
Chapter II (released July) details “Junior Sparks,” grandson of Gloria Sparks. Through this set of songs, “It Wasn’t Easy To Be Happy For You,” “Leader Of The Landslide” and “Left for Denver,” listeners get to see Gloria through her grandson’s eyes in “Leader Of The Landslide.”
Part III completed the trilogy by providing the missing piece of the puzzle, Junior’s father and Gloria’s son, “Jimmy Sparks.” Jimmy gets four songs, “My Cell,” “Jimmy Sparks,” “April” and “Salt And The Sea.” “My Cell” tells the tale of a prisoner of addiction, and, as the song progresses, it can be felt that the prisoner is slowly losing his battle. “Jimmy Sparks” might be the most heart-wrenching song because of how it ends — with Jimmy’s advice to Junior turned back on him in a dark moment. “April” is short and sweet — no words. “Salt And The Sea” closes the album very well with symbols of the haunting traces of addiction and how it always manages to resurface.
Addiction lies at the core of the album and is the central theme upon which it is built. It hinders the family that “III” talks about through its three chapters, characters and generations. Inspiration comes from drummer and pianist Jeremiah Fraites’ brother, who died of a heroine overdose after a long road battling addiction. Joshua Fraites was also good friends with lead singer Wes Schultz.
Three seems to be the major number for this album, as three bonus tracks accompany the three chapters.
“Democracy” initially contains traces of The Lumineers’ first two albums both in tone and in words. It also seems to start off as either a grand opening or ending song to a film. It does transform into its own essential piece later, giving yet another example of the impressive detail with which The Lumineers write. I feel like it would fit into the trio of C-Sides that The Lumineers produced in 2018. “Old Lady” starts off slow and steady with a familiar image. It balances out the load of words as well as the faster pace in “Democracy.” It builds nicely. “Soundtrack” is the fastest of the three bonus tracks. It is droll because it sounds upbeat but the lyrics sing of irritation and monotony.
“III” — almost named “Love, Loss and Crimes” — marks the first album produced by The Lumineers without cellist Neyla Pekarek. Pekarek decided to go solo in October 2018 after eight years with the band. This year, she released her first solo album, “Rattlesnake.”
Interestingly enough, “III” was completed in September 2018, according to The Lumineers’ Instagram account. The year-later release makes the message all the more poignant, as does a thoughtful cinematic series of videos — directed by Kevin Phillips — made for each song. These videos were accepted as a series/short film by the Toronto International Film Festival, which adds another level of artistry and respect to this album.
Simone Felice returned to the scene to collaborate with Fraites and Schultz. Lauren Jacobsen has played violin with the band since 2011. She joined the group of touring members — Stelth Uvang (piano), Byron Isaacs (bass / backing vocals) and Brandon Miller (multi-instrumentalist).
While it may not be your go-to type of music, this latest from The Lumineers is definitely worth a listen. True to their name, they shed light on a dark subject. “III” is quite different from their past work, but I’m glad The Lumineers went after what they wanted, producing a masterpiece of work about a tough topic in the process.