Review: The Lumineers – BRIGHTSIDE
National Music Reviews
Dualtone Music Group
The Lumineers = Mumford & Sons x American Authors
There is something about The Lumineers’ discography that is incomparable to any other modern folk bands. Their rustic, stripped-down approach to production and vocals alike make for something that always results in heartfelt, easy-to-get-stuck-in-your-head tracks that even those that aren’t a fan of folk enjoy, like in their hit “Ho Hey” from a few years back. The combination of Wesley Schultz’s inspiring drawl and Jeremiah Friates’ deliberate sonic choices is a formula that is tired, true and (still) successful for the band. It also makes their fourth album, BRIGHTSIDE, as moving and creative as ever, and even allows room for thematic experimentation.
Totaling in at nine tracks, the album is considerably shorter and notably less character-driven than the others. In the brilliant Cleopatra from 2016 and more recently 2019’s III, The Lumineers deliver the stories of the tracks through intimate, character-focused tales. On BRIGHTSIDE, there is no Cleopatra, Ophelia or Angela to help tie the narrative arc together. Instead, there is a hopeful and optimistic vein throughout the album that enthusiastically surrenders to the unknown, with no named characters to guide listeners. It’s a pointed nod to going with the flow.
As a whole, BRIGHTSIDE is refreshing. The Lumineers have a particular knack for capturing melancholy in their tracks. There is some of that present in this new album (“Birthday”), but with an effervescent, rose-colored glow to it. The opening track and album namesake introduce us to the idea of the sun coming up (“I’ll be your brightside, baby”) and is bracketed and reflected well in the closer, “Reprise” (“I’m headed for the brightside, baby, tonight”), which feels a lot like the sun setting. In fact, the entire album feels like the cycle of light throughout the day, through dawn, dusk, sunrise, sunset and twilight.
The album is on the emotional and thematic lighter side, and it’s incredibly fitting and poignant. There are those that will look down on an album that revels in appreciating the small joys and surrendering to the tumultuous unknown that our world is made up of, especially after what The Lumineers previous albums have done. But, I think that’s exactly what makes it remarkably distinct from the music we’ve heard in the past two years. It is a brief, fitting reminder that there is a bright side without ignoring that there will still be melancholy moments, as “Never Really Mine” (my favorite) and “Rollercoaster” show.
When the duo tells us, “I don’t know where we are, but it’ll be okay” in “Where We Are,” I’m inclined to believe them, with a steadfast conviction. From its cover to its soft, dreamy production, BRIGHTSIDE not only makes for a perfect addition to the ongoing “Sunday reset” trend, but its singalong tracks and feather-soft acoustic touches feels a lot like sonic catharsis and very much like starting over. –Palak Jayswal