Last week I went to see The Civil Wars play what could very well be their last ever gig at The Roundhouse in London, an event some bigger fans in the audience may have had cause to mourn, or at least hold up on some kind of pedestal – though truth be told it’s not as if we were at The Last Waltz. Personally, it was hard for me to feel anything at all about the headliners set, purely because their support band blew them clean out of the water. That band were The Lumineers.
I’d been told to listen to this band a while back, someone sent me a Youtube link to 'Hey-Ho', which I think is now soundtracking a phone advert or something. Honestly I wasn’t that fussed, it sounded like it should be soundtracking a phone advert or something. It’s nice, but there’s nothing to it. That song is not an accurate representation of their debut record.
The Lumineers album is folk in the truest sense of the word. Forget Mumford & Sons’ chant-a-long songs about nothing in particular, The Lumineers tell stories, good ones at that. 'Big Parade' begins with a simple, old-time chorus, which did have me worried when I first heard it, before descending into a series of beautiful snapshots from the day of the aforementioned big parade. Each vignette has a beautiful sense of place and that, along with some barnstorming clapping and a charmingly simple melody really convey a feeling of celebration and joyousness.
Then there’s 'Charlie Boy', a much more poignant story about an American soldier drafted into Vietnam, and the family crisis that emanates there from. It’s as tragic a song as I’ve heard in a very long time, set only to a stark, duelling mandolins and violins, with some well placed choiring in the bridge and Wesley Schultz’s fantastic vocals carrying everything along, roaring with ferocity one minute, crooning with whiskey soaked romance the next. I read someone describe their album as the best debut since Bon Iver’s 'For Emma, Forever Ago'. There’s no comparison whatsoever musically really. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of Swedish troubadour The Tallest Man On Earth then you’ll sure have some fun with this record.
They may look like hipsters and will probably be judged as such, but there’s no fakery on show here, no insincerity whatsoever. With writing that could be placed alongside great American writers like Richard Yates and Bernard Malamud, and songs that feel as fresh as they do timeless, it’s fair to say that The Lumineers are very much the real deal.
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