A fourth record beaming with light and hope
The folk-rock duo seek light in the darkness, hope amidst tragedy, relief from the pain. BRIGHTSIDE radiates with shimmering, congealed compositions, framed around lyrical urgency and emotional poignancy.
It’s not always easy to look on the brightside when the storm threatens to rip through your life. Songwriters Wesley Shultz and Jeremiah Fraites, the masterminds of The Lumineers, attempt to assuage the pressure from the last two years through a sturdy, nine-track collection, a salve to these troubling end-of-days. Our collective existence has been teetering on collapse, from the ongoing pandemic to political unrest, yet the art born out of this era has blossomed into a full-on renaissance.
Artist: The Lumineers
Label: Dualtone Music Group
★★★★ (4/5 stars)
Across a posh soundscape, The Lumineers turn over desolate stones, caked in heartache and darkness, and uncover sprouts of hope, resilience, and courage. “Losing every other friend / Finding nothing in the afterlife,” Shultz observes on the opener and title track. “BRIGHTSIDE” firmly roots itself in the complicated vines of relationship problems, but its thematic offshoots stretch to puncture the surface into coping with catastrophe on a deeply personal level. The rhythmically textured “A.M. RADIO” depicts the pull of one’s purpose in life, nestled within a bed of weighted pressure and uncertainty, whereas the “WHERE WE ARE” refrain revisits a near-fatal car crash Shultz and his wife suffered over a decade ago. “I don’t know where we are,” he sings, referencing the hazy aftermath of the accident.
“BIRTHDAY” immediately injects with another dose of optimism. “We gather ’round, your house burned down / As you held a garden hosе / You and me, we’ll always be thе ones to hang around,” sings Shultz before returning to the “it’s alright” chant on the chorus. It’s a pragmatic dogma, even if truly finding the light again is an arduous task at best. But the band is fully aware of this, and their messaging rarely veers too far into straight moralizing. Rather, it’s about manifesting destiny, as they surmise on “BIG SHOT,” an earnest piano ballad decorated around their own journey to superstardom.
Sticky with piano, “ROLLERCOASTER” deceives with its glistening and soft instrumentation, while such lyrics as “everyone was only dyin’ to live” smack you like a ton of bricks. It’s within these moments especially that Shultz and Fraites deliver on the existentialism many of us carry with us, daily soldiering through vast wilderness to rediscover reality and a sense of living. “NEVER REALLY MINE” is scalpel-sharp and brooding, electric guitar casting a neon glow around Shultz’s trembling and raw lead vocal. Then, in the finale, “REPRISE” recenters and harkens back to the opener, even referencing the expedition for hope with the “I’m headed for the brightside, baby” declaration.
The Lumineers’ BRIGHTSIDE is under no delusions about the state of the world. It’s simply nine songs ambling through valleys of darkness before emerging up a steep slope and feeling the sun warm the skin. Life is certainly more complicated than that, but it’s through such records that we, as human beings, can repossess ourselves and what this whole thing is even about.
As tennis champ Arthur Ashe once said, “The doing is often more important than the outcome.”
VIDEO: The Lumineers “BRIGHTSIDE”
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