The Lumineers, often classified by their stomp and holler sound layered under lyrics that make me reminisce on something that’s never happened to me. As on the first three studio albums, there’s a sense of longing within the lyrics on this album. In the midst of a pandemic, The Lumineers, a band that had consistently toured for 10+ years, did not lose sight of their sound and message. And on January 14th, 2022, the folk-rock band from Denver, Colorado released their fourth studio album, stylized in all capital letters, Brightside.


The album, nine tracks totaling just above 30 minutes, begins with title track, “Brightside”. It’s a sad scene. Over The Lumineers signature raw guitar and a simple drum beat to keep the tempo, Wesley Schultz, lead singer of The Lumineers, does his thing. He paints the vision of a broken down Oldsmobile and a lot of cigarettes. These are coupled with the reassuring “I’ll be your brightside.” Overall, the song is true to The Lumineers sound and entirely deserving of the title track honor.


The second track, “A.M. Radio”, features another thing the band seems to have perfected by this point: love songs to someone who is not very receptive to affection. The lyrics paint the picture of a strained relationship. The chorus of this one sandwiches together opposing points. Schultz is describing how he couldn’t give this person up, but they were running from him, after promises of a fulfilling relationship. Unlike “Brightside”, the title track, “A.M. Radio” trades out the simple drum beat for a simple piano riff during the verses, only to be overshadowed in the repetition of the lyrics, mirroring the down beats played on a kick drum.


Next up, one of my personal favorites, “Where We Are”, has been too harshly criticized. To me, this one felt the most musically inclined thus far into the album. The Lumineers tend to stick closely to what they do well, one of a few of my favorite bands who have kept the most consistent sound. This track felt like a branch out, but definitely nothing too far out of the folk rock realm. The repetitiveness of the track isn’t for everyone, but the accompaniment makes it all worth it. The fourth track, “Birthday” was an okay song in my opinion. For some reason the repetitiveness of this track wasn’t for me. However, the on the nose lyrics of this song and the imagery it provided did keep me around and I have re-listened to it a few times to see if it would grow on me. Unfortunately, it hasn’t yet.


But “Big Shot”, sitting right in the middle of the album at track 5, found its way on my playlist. Another classic Lumineers troupe put into effect. The one song that always makes me question myself. “Big Shot” begins with lyrics over a piano riff and each chorus and verse adds a new element until it’s a full-bodied ensemble. And the lyrics are simple, but extremely catchy. “You wanna be a big shot/ You wanna be a big man” and the instrumental will not get out of my head. This particular song will definitely be a favorite for a while.


The song called “Never Really Mine” felt like a sound we don’t frequently get from The Lumineers. The majority of this track is accompanied by a bass drum and the drum providing more than just a down beat which completely differs from the classic piano/ acoustic guitar set up of their genre, but still not too disconnected from the folk rock genre. Just a bit more rock heavy.
“Rollercoaster” reminded me entirely of the band’s self titled album. It felt like a song I would have listened to on my suitcase record player during my freshman year of high school. I don’t think this is my favorite song on the album, but lyrically it is. My favorite line was “ I know what is what/ I can feel the rust? I know you are already gone”. I love all of their lyrics on this album for the most part, but currently this one sits with me the most.


“Remington” feels less like a song to me and more like a poem. The imagery in this song goes a bit in circles. We begin hearing the ocean and foam in the sea, which creates a calming picture. This then shifts into the entire sea being painted black. Then followed by three lines of “Waitin’ on the sun”. After what I would classify as an almost sonnet put to music, the song is capped off by the pleas to Mr. Remington to “promise us everything”. Not much has been said or hypothesized about the meaning of this song, leaving it to be the most ominous on the album.


And finally, we are finishing off with “Reprise”. Contrary to what you may believe, it’s actually a stand alone song. And I personally believe the instrumentals and subtle nods to other tracks could not have been executed better. With motifs from the title track, Schultz is now heading for the brightside himself, rather than promising to be that for someone else.


Overall for me, the album was a hit. Even in the midst of everything that has occurred since their last studio album, The Lumineers, as always, covered the heavy topics with earthy instrumentals and metaphorical lyrics. I believe these songs can also be interpreted in many ways to speak to a wider audience. Hopefully we’re also approaching a brightside.


Photo credits from: https://www.indiependent.co.uk/album-review-brightside-the-lumineers/

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