Music Reviews

The Lumineers BRIGHTSIDE

(Dualtone Music Group) Rating - 6/10

The natural response for anyone who follows any ambitious project is to simplify things the next time around. III, the third LP by the Lumineers, found co-founders Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites tackling the self-destructive patterns of addiction in a three-act structure. And though presented in their usual folk-pop stylings, the album was also a far cry from the bright, cheerful singalongs that catapulted them into TV commercials and chart success with tracks like Ho Hey and Ophelia.

BRIGHTSIDE brings back that outward optimism that makes their music sound comforting and catchy, even if it doesn't gloss over the darker aspects of life. The album's title itself is self-evident, sure, and the spirited WHERE WE ARE does provide calming reassurances (“I don't know where we are/ But it will be okay”) that might make you either wince or smile depending on how full your glass is. Is it mawkish? Sure, but it's right on brand for a band that has never shied away from embracing their empty gestures.

When Schultz and Fraites aren't trying to catch the next big adult alternative hit, though, they prove to be very competent songwriters. On the Beatleesque BIRTHDAY, the duo offers a good-natured ode to carrying on as Fraites plays a striding piano progression. Schultz stresses that “everyone was only dyin' to live” on the thoughtful piano ballad Rollercoaster, looking for spiritual guidance within a series of pithy, yet discerning story vignettes. His raw, hoarse singing benefits the track's downscaled approach, and like most of the album's quiet and intimate moments, ends up being more effective.

The duo brings back the rugged roots rocker title track with REPRISE, on which they leave a little bit of mystery behind what appears to be an open-ended conclusion. A sentiment such as “I'm headed for the bright side, baby, tonight” doesn't sound like the joyful earworm it should be anymore, as they question the very essence of being alive in such uncertain times. Even if closing the album with a reprise doesn't feel quite earned in what amounts to a 30-minute album, it does correlate with their tendency to convey big ideas in a simple package.

But that's essentially how The Lumineers operate, and BRIGHTSIDE is no different: belt out vibrant and occasionally resonant anthems that are easy to grasp even if somewhat oversimplified. The nuance is altogether lost, though, like most of their discography, it'll win you over with its scrappy, can-do charm.