Review: ‘III’ bring monotonous folk

The Lumineers return with unchanged sound in third album

Courtesy of Dualtone Records.

Courtesy of Dualtone Records.

Folk rock band The Lumineers released its latest album, “III,” on Friday, Sept. 13. The album revolves around the story of the Sparks, a fictional family that has been torn apart by the tragedies of life. “III” as a whole is an emotionally poignant album with twists and turns in each song to tug at listeners’ heartstrings. According to The Lumineers’ website, “III” is meant to be separated into three sections with three songs in each section. All three sections tell the story of a family member; this does not include the three bonus tracks on the album.

The first section, with tracks “Donna,” “Life In The City” and “Gloria,” focuses on the grandmother of the family, Gloria. These three tracks contrast in tone and overall vibe greatly. From the somber, impactful “Donna” to the upbeat and exciting “Gloria,” the first section of this album showcases the classic sound which The Lumineers is known for providing fans with.

In the second section of the album, the story of Junior Sparks is told. The second section contains most of the depressing songs of the album, like “It Wasn’t Easy To Be Happy For You” and “Leader Of The Landslide,” reminding the audience of what heartbreak and betrayal feel like during one’s teenage years. “Leader Of The Landslide” contains a soft, beautiful guitar playing gently in the background to supplement the raw emotional power in lead singer Wesley Schultz’ voice.

Despite having strong songs such as “Leader Of The Landslide,” “It Wasn’t Easy To Be Happy For You” and “Donna,” “III” is monotonous and lacks the diversification between songs an album needs to be successful. Each track seems to blend into the next, making fans wonder what makes each song truly unique.

The final section of the album, which focuses on Jimmy Sparks, is a relatively weak link when compared to the first two sections. Although the instrumental track “April” was a nice break from the typical melancholic tone of the rest of “III,” the travesty that is “Jimmy Sparks” negates that ray of sunshine. “Jimmy Sparks” is a nearly six-minute-long song which tells the two-decade-long story of Jimmy Sparks’ life as a single dad. Despite matching the tone of the rest of the album, “My Cell” is a nice listen due to the increased intensity in the vocals and the focus on piano in the background, rather than only the overused guitar.

The bonus tracks are excluded from the rest of the album because they did not fit into the narrative envisioned by the band. Each bonus song is unique in topic and sound, varying from political outrage to heartbroken grief. “Democracy,” a song painting a picture of a new age in American politics, is far too long at six minutes and 44 seconds to hold the attention of the listeners. The raw emotional appeal in “Old Lady” makes up for the faults of “Democracy,” though. The audience is able to feel the anguish and emotional exhaustion which results from losing a loved one through Schultz’ emotional tone.

Overall, “III” is effective in its mission to provide listeners with an emotionally impactful narrative over the course of the album. Schultz smartly uses his voice to his advantage in songs such as “Salt And The Sea” and “Old Lady.” However, with each song sounding almost exactly like the one before, the album does not have enough variety to have the “wow” factor. This causes “III” to earn 2.5 out of 5 stars. With more distinct instrumentals in a couple of the songs, the album could have easily moved up to a 3 out of 5.