Mix together some acoustic guitar sounds with random female names for song titles, and there you have it— The Lumineers. This American indie folk and rock band’s third and latest studio album “III” (2019) can also be perfectly described with a memorable series of short films in place of traditional music videos. From the first track, “Donna,” listeners can dive into the world of The Lumineers and surround themselves with the album’s powerful storytelling.
▲ Album cover of "III" by The Lumineers, Provided by The Lumineers Twitter
Best known for their hit single, Ho Hey (2014), The Lumineers have continued to inspire listeners worldwide with every new release. Their newest 10-track album “III” features pensive songs by band members Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites, who have amplified the exceptional nostalgic feeling of their songs by using lyrics from their past hit songs. The use of raw instrumental sounds is another one of the band’s easy identifiers that transforms folk music into a much more heart-wrenching and powerful experience.
“III” conveys the dark and hurtful reality of alcoholism and drug addiction not only through its music, but also through its connecting music videos. The Lumineers released the album in three segments: “Gloria Sparks,” “Junior Sparks,” and “Jimmy Sparks.” Each segment depicts the individual narratives of the three generations of the Sparks family as they go through similarly harrowing chapters of their lives. With the addition of applaudable acting from the album’s short films, listeners can become completely mesmerized by the tragic story of the Sparks.
The Lumineers revealed through the Canadian radio station 102.1 the Edge that the idea comes from their own family members who had unfortunately struggled with similar issues. Drummer and percussionist Jeremiah Fraites further admits feeling a weird sense of solace from “III,” since his own brother passed away from drug abuse. The album’s efforts in turning a simple chronicle into a warning against abuse is a true turning point in the music industry.
The album’s first track, “Donna,” actually sings about her daughter, Gloria. Rather than the solacing image of motherhood, listeners are confronted with Gloria’s gloomy thoughts about Donna. It also shows how Gloria herself fails in fulfilling her role as a mother, through the lyrics “You couldn’t sober up to hold a baby.” Gloria’s traumatic story is well represented through the soft piano melody and the intensifying film that portrays Gloria’s depressing life.
The next chapter starts with the fourth track of the album, “It Wasn’t Easy to be Happy for You.” The powerful opening chords of the acoustic guitar introduce “Junior Sparks,” Gloria’s grandson. Schultz’s exaggerated vocals bring about a feeling of malaise while the music video shows Junior Sparks smoking and having explicit thoughts about his ex-girlfriend. The story continues to the next chapter, “Jimmy Sparks,” to tell the story of Junior’s father, or Gloria’s son. The recurring lyrics “Could you spare my blood” hauntingly connect to the dreary ending of the father and son in the film that definitely lasts in the listeners’ minds.
The release of The Lumineers’ new album, “III” can be seen by most as a hit in both the music and the film industry. A reviewer writes that The Lumineers created “A masterful collection of songs that sound like an Academy Award-winning film.” The album can be a good match for those who are not familiar with indie folk rock but want to experience the perks of the band’s stand- out storytelling.