For those who aren’t aware, Cleopatra is the 2nd album from the American folk rock band The Lumineers. Today I’m going to make my case for why this is the album we all need right now.
A bold statement, I realize, especially as not everyone is a fan of folk rock. However, even if it isn’t your sort of thing normally, I might recommend giving it a listen at the moment.
The majority of the songs deal with depressing topics via melancholic lyrics. The title track tells the story of a woman who feels she’s missed her chance at love and believes she’ll die alone, Sleep on the Floor deals with two people having to get out of town while they can as they’re decried as sinners, and Long Way from Home narrates the slow death of a man into his final moments.
These topics are covered, and emotionally rendered. The ideas are not dismissed, and the album has a melancholic air.
And, yet, while these issues are treated for the tragedies, etc. that they should be, the songs do not wallow in them. The album on the whole manages to leave the audience with an optimistic feeling. Some songs suggest that while this time is a bad one, it has a impermanence to it. The message is not “this is terrible and the end of everything” so much as “this is a transient situation, we must keep moving and push against that darkness, and in time this will pass.”
Sleep on the Floor might watch two people running from persecution, but it does so with the idea in mind that you can lie down and take it, or move on to something better:
If the sun don’t shine on me today
And if the subways flood and bridges break
Will you lay yourself down and dig your grave
Or will you rail against your dying day
The protagonist in Cleopatra might believe that she missed her chance, but she continues to press on with grim determination:
So I drive a taxi, and the traffic distracts me
From the strangers in my backseat, they remind me of you
But I was late for this, late for that, late for the love of my life
And when I die alone, when I die alone, when I die I’ll be on time
This “pressing on” is underscored by the music, which is driven with a slight bounce to it that emphasizes the more positive notes that are hidden in the song.
And while Long Way from Home deals with death, it finds a silver-lining in that the death comes as a relief:
More morphine, the last words you moaned
At last I was sure
That you weren’t far away from home
Hardly joyous stuff, but it looks at finding in the darkness whatever light you can, and pushing against that darkness regardless of the struggle, which I think a lot of people might need right now. And I really enjoy the music.
I also want to put in a special mention for the beautiful videos for Cleopatra, which does a great job of depicting the song and doesn’t take time out of that for the band (which can work sometimes but sometimes is jarring), and Ophelia which has a delightful simplicity to it, and that I love for a reason I can’t quite explain.
Note: A lot of what I’m going to say in these monthly music posts is going to be my subjective opinion. If you disagree with me, I’m always happy to discuss music, either in the comments on WordPress, or on the Facebook post I put a link to this in.