The Lumineers tackle family and addiction


Jordan Douthit

The Lumineers premiered a short film at the Toronto International Film Festival to celebrate their new album, “III.”

Korbin Breeden, Staff Writer

The world of music today is highlighted by one-hit wonders, anthems, and wedding songs, but the Lumineers proved to break from the music industry’s most popular trends. Listeners may remember the Lumineers for their folk-rock sound, which brought songs like “Ophelia” and “Ho Hey” to life. However, the sound of the Lumineers’ new album offers something completely different. The once light-hearted folk-band has become a group of storytellers sharing a narrative of family, addiction, and brokenness.

“III,” the latest album for the Lumineers, released on Sept. 13, and is split into three chapters. The album as a whole serves the purpose of telling the story of the Sparks family. The first chapter consists of the first three tracks: “Donna,” “Life in the City,” and “Gloria,” tell the story of Gloria Sparks, the grandmother of the family. Through the story, listeners learn early on of the family’s battle with alcoholism and drug addiction. The songs themselves sonically follow the trend of the Lumineers’ folk music. Ballads layered with acoustics, piano, and drums are met with the short bounce of a tambourine. The first chapter sets the tone for the whole album with an incrementally chaotic sound and rich lyrics, which help listeners get an idea of who Gloria is and what is to come. Listeners will quickly feel as if they are reading a book or watching a movie as they learn the story of the Sparks family.

The story of the Sparks family is multigenerational, hence the three unique chapters. The sound of the music itself follows the narrative in identifying key emotions that come with the change in conflict. Transitions between chapters even highlight the ramifications of the past generation’s actions on its descendants.

So why are the Lumineers taking on a depressing story of brokenness? The band has made it clear that they want to tell their own story and bring to light a discussion that is often hidden from the eyes of the public. The stories of Gloria, Jimmy, and Junior are not just three fictional stories, but pieces of the band’s story. After finishing the album, they created a short film that has been released at the Toronto International Film Festival, providing a fantastic visual for the story.

Listening to “III” is a call to recognize the issues at hand and bring them to the forefront of the conversation. One of their final tracks on the album, a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Democracy,” discusses the heartbreaking reality that the Lumineers identify as being around them –– a reality that sees ideology solely as the cure to an ever-growing disease of brokeness. With “III,” the Lumineers have shown that they are willing to put their careers on the line to produce raw material weighing in on some of the hardest issues in today’s world. They have challenged the world to speak openly about alcoholism, drug abuse, broken families, and the broken world at large.

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