‘Brightside’ made me sad: How the new Lumineers album failed me
Anna Falk | Friday, January 21, 2022
As the seasons change throughout the year, so do people. In art, this is an important aspect to consider.
My life has been centered around music for as long as I can remember. Throughout this time, I’ve seen what and who I listen to change as I discover new artists and as the artists I like discover new sounds.
The Lumineers have always been one of my favorite bands. Their first two albums, “The Lumineers” and “Cleopatra,” are sonic works of art. Their third album, “III,” took me some time to warm up to, but I’m still fond of many of its songs. The prospect of a new Lumineers album always excites me; I always look forward to seeing how they evolve their sound.
However, I was disappointed in many ways with their new album “Brightside.” Throughout every album, the Lumineers have tried to tweak their sound in ways that still make it familiar to listeners but doesn’t feel like an unexpected shift in their discography. With “Cleopatra,” the band explored more maturity and complexity in their sound, and they discussed matters lyrically in a more cohesive manner. “III” furthered this maturity in sound and lyric material. However, every album still sounded like them.
Throughout the band’s lifespan, they’ve had to deal with the coming and going of various artists — most notably the loss of cellist and vocalist Neyla Pekarek. However, many fans know the two constants of the band are Wesley Schultz (lead vocals and guitar) and Jeremiah Fraites (piano, percussion, backing vocals). Schultz and Fraites have found solo careers of their own between the release of “III” and “Brightside,” and I believe this is evident in the band’s new sound.
In the seasons of the Lumineers, I believe “The Lumineers” to be spring, “Cleopatra” to be summer and “III” to be fall. To round out the seasons, “Brightside” — ironically — would be the winter. While the title track and singles promise the album to be uplifting and sunny, “Brightside” takes a dark turn.
“Brightside” tells many stories of loss, pain and struggle. “Where We Are” recounts the story of Schultz and his wife’s emergence from a car accident 10 years prior; it is a song marveling at the band’s popularity, while also making sure to acknowledge their luck at being alive and well. “Rollercoaster” addresses the pain of living and of loss, especially in the past few years.
Lyrically, I think that the album is quite similar to the Lumineers’ past work, but it lacks the same kind of emotional weight. The complexity of emotions delivered through lyric and sound are toned-down, and, while the band says, “[they] were trying to strike that cord of balance between destruction and pain along with hope,” I can’t see the latter coming into play as much as I’d hoped.
Perhaps my biggest issue with this album is the enhanced use of rock themes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of rock music, it is the primary genre found on my Spotify. To me, the introduction of these rock elements overpowers the acoustic sound that they are known for.
With a theme of hope in pain and the use of rock elements, I thought that I’d be a bigger fan of “Brightside.” The often upbeat and fast-paced sounds of rock should work well with optimistic themes and lyrics. Yet, the whole album meshes together to become disappointingly forgettable.
I still enjoy certain elements of the album, like the use of lyrical reprise and the dynamic combination of storytelling and instrumentation, but it doesn’t feel like a natural progression from “III.” Perhaps I just need to look on the bright side — the Lumineers are still making music!
Artist: The Lumineers
Label: Dualtone, Decca
Favorite tracks: “Rollercoaster,” “Remington,” “Reprise”
If you like: Mumford & Sons, Florence + the Machine, Bon Iver
Shamrocks: 3 out of 5