Album review: "The Lumineers"
By Geoffrey Himes
Friday, Apr. 20, 2012
The Lumineers made one of the biggest splashes of any new band at this year's South by Southwest music festival in Austin. The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune all praised the Denver folk-pop trio's contagious singalongs. That's fine if you think the rousing, mug-swinging pub music of Mumford & Sons represents the future of the folk tradition, but if you think the genre deserves something more substantial, the band's debut album, "The Lumineers," might seem a bit thin.
The album's first single, "Ho Hey," distills the band's strengths and weaknesses to their essences. The tune boasts two catchy hooks: lead singer Wesley Schultz's warbling chorus declaration, "I belong with you, you belong with me," and the joyful shout "Ho, hey," by backing singers Jeremiah Fraites and Neyla Pakarek. There's an undeniable pleasure in hearing those melodic memes delivered with such unreserved gusto, but the lyrics don't really say anything beyond Schultz's chorus couplet; neither the singing nor the picking is particularly accomplished, and the song is harmonically simplistic and rhythmically ragged.
These strengths and weaknesses persist throughout the disc. But this is a young band, and Schultz displays a willingness to grow as a songwriter in the self-deprecating humor of "Classy Girls" and the dark mood of "Slow It Down."