There are loads of great albums out in the world. Super catchy ones and ones that you can play on repeat and never get bored of and ones that just seem so classic that they’ll always have a relevant place in the realm of music, like they’ll live forever in the hearts and the souls of their listeners. And then there are albums that are all of those things and more. They evoke deeply hidden emotions and make your heart soar and make you feel like maybe you’re bursting at the seams with light and love and happiness. Those are the albums you’ve got to hold onto, and for me, Cleopatra is one of them.
The Lumineers have made something special with this one. Really, really special. The album came at a time when I really needed it. I was hurt in a way I never thought I would be and I was unsure of what I needed and I’m still not really sure what Cleopatra has woven through its melodies and its lyrics that makes me feel so whole, but there’s something there, and I hold it close to my soul. In some ways it’s about heartbreak and the most difficult times of your life, but it’s also about triumph and joy and it’s a yelling, screaming, life-affirming reminder of an album. And that was healing for me. Music is healing.
Cleopatra starts off with the slow-burning that is “Sleep on the Floor.” It’s a track about love and leaving and some form of adventure, of leaving behind what doesn’t serve you and about moving onto bigger and better things. I nearly cried when I first heard Wes sing the lyric “I was not born to drown,” and it was almost immediately scrawled into my visual journal. It’s become a bit of a mantra, a reminder to myself of everything I’m living for. It’s an important track.
The album continues with previously-released songs “Ophelia” (which you can read my review of here) and “Cleopatra.” Both of them are honest, brightly-coloured retellings of personal stories or tales of strangers that needed to be shown to the world. They’re beautiful and vibrant and brilliant singles to lead off with. The fourth track, “Gun Song,” has the sort of power that you’d think would come with a title such as that. The bridge is a bullet in and of itself, it deserves hands in the air and mouths wide open yelling along to the words and eyes closed as everyone savours the force behind the lyrics. I love every second of it, and I love how empowered it makes me feel.
When writing album reviews, I usually take time to pick and choose my favourite tracks on the album to highlight, ones that really stir up emotion or that are sonically masterful or that are just damn good songs. In this case, Cleopatra is full of them. It’s almost overflowing with glorious melodies and the most thoughtful lyrics you could imagine, and that makes it hard to choose just a few songs. “In The Light” is sparkling. It’s soft and subtle, the last remnants of warm daylight streaming through an old window and onto dark hardwood floors at dusk. It feels comforting, like a grown-up lullaby, but also like a heart-breaking plea to have everything that you’ve ever given up returned to you. “Sick In The Head” is a face-off, someone rising up and refusing to live like they’re told. It’s the kind of song that sticks in your brain, reminding you to just be who you are, unapologetically and without any reservations. It’s little mementos to carry with you, and it’s beautiful.
The record ends too quickly. That is my only complaint. It goes by in a flash and you’re far too busy soaking in its glory to even notice that you’re nearing the end. And although it finishes almost without warning, the end is also dazzling. The second to last track is “My Eyes,” and it’s one that rips you to shreds. The song is silky and it flows straight to your heart with ease. Lyrics like “promised it all but you lied” feel as though they could tear buildings to the ground. The whole thing touches you in a way that’s hard to explain. For all the tearing apart and the destruction that this track is tinged with, the next song puts it all back together. It wraps the album up with craft paper and and baker’s twine and sends you on your way, satisfied but maybe yearning for a little more. “Patience” is simple. It’s also heart-warming and soothing and in some way sort of encouraging, a push in the right direction. An indication that there’s still more to come and that you’re on the right path. Somehow the modest elegance of the piano says everything that an album’s final track ever needs to say without speaking any words. It’s pure magic.
I can’t thank The Lumineers enough for this record. It does truly feel like a gift, like something tailor-made for each individual listener. There are words and notes and whistles and hidden gems in this album that are bound to make you feel something, to remind you to choose happiness or to move on from what doesn’t serve you or to always be courageous. How the band found it in themselves to give us all of that I will never know or understand, but I’m grateful for all of it. I’m enamoured with its thirty-three minutes, with its eleven songs, with its understated magnificence. I adore it. And I can’t wait to be in the crowd when they play Toronto on July 28th, my hands reaching up to the sky and my hair down and every single one of my worries forgotten. As hard as I’ve tried to do it justice with this post, Cleopatra is something beyond words. Only the best records are.