The self-titled debut album from the Colorado-based Lumineers is a wordy and tuneful take on roots music, reminiscent of recently successful releases by bands such as the Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons. The production is refined and tasteful (arguably to a fault), and frontman and principal songwriter Wesley Schultz can be a pleasant vocalist when underplaying his throaty rasp.
Unfortunately, subtlety is not Schultz’s long suit. Instead, he is one in folk music’s recent parade of tortured troubadours apparently laboring under the misguided view that full-throated, upper-register caterwauling is a legitimate substitute for well-earned catharsis. One can easily imagine Levon Helm or Gram Parsons wondering what all the shrieking is about.
The vocal affectations reach their most maddening when Schultz screeches his way through generic tales of romance gone wrong. The slow-burning quasi-waltz “Morning Song” feels excruciating at its five-minute running time, piling cringe-worthy couplets atop one another and, ultimately, rendering a performance that is simultaneously tedious and mortifying (“Did you think of me when you made love with him / Was it the same as us?”). “Slow It Down” similarly amps up the drama to illogical heights for a song whose stakes seem no higher than your average rom-com.
Things improve on the Celtic-tinged “Charlie Boy,” which obliquely alludes to the fate of a conscripted Vietnam vet. Other good moments on “The Lumineers” include opener “Flowers in Your Hair,” which tumbles forward agreeably with a “Graceland”-style melody, and the lightly psychedelic “Dead Sea,” on which complex string arrangements achieve an almost “Eleanor Rigby”-like effect. If Schultz can learn to steer away from strangled over-emoting, it’s easy to imagine a more mature Lumineers parlaying its genuine flair for song craft into something more interesting than entries in a high school diary.
— Timothy Bracy
“Flowers In Your Hair,” “Dead Sea”