Released on Friday, Sept. 13, The Lumineer’s third album “III” exceeds all expectations. This piece of artistry transcends the norm, offering both a cinematic storyline and a musical masterpiece through the fictional lives of a three-generational family.
The indie-folk band, founded by lead vocalist Wesley Schultz and percussionist Jeremiah Fraites, released its third studio album using a technique not seen before in the music industry.
Presented across three separate chapters and including three bonus tracks, “III” is to be experienced from start to finish in order to fully depict the story of the Sparks family and their ongoing struggles with addiction.
The lyrics of each song are written in a narrator-like way, providing background to the family members’ lives, feelings and struggles, without straying from their signature folksy sound.
The Lumineer’s fans aren’t strangers to the band crossing musical boundaries and exploring different artistic mediums. Their second album “Cleopatra,” released in 2016, brought to life five different story lines, releasing short films which eventually formed a complete overlapping narrative.
“III” crosses similar visual boundaries with the addition of short films coinciding to songs from each chapter. The ten films unite the eyes with the ears, dreaming up an equally sensational and poetic narrative.
With each storyline, Schultz and Fraites delve into the dark reality of families with a history of addiction. They explore the domino effect that addiction, specifically alcoholism, can have on members of a family.
In each chapter, Schultz’s dreamy voice embodies each character as he recounts the events of each one’s tumultuous past, as well as present.
The first chapter begins with the story of Donna, the neglectful mother of Gloria, who was never able to properly express love to her daughter. In turn, Gloria lacks the ability to show love to her own son, Jimmy, because she had never experienced it herself. As the chapter continues, the listener learns more about Donna’s daughter Gloria and her complex struggle with alcoholism.
The lyrics, “you couldn’t sober up to hold a baby,” honestly depicts the dangerous and stormy reality of addiction.
As the chapter carries on, the song “Gloria” explores the impacts addiction can have on loved ones with the lyrics “Gloria, will you just decide? Gloria, there’s easier ways to die, Gloria, have you had enough?” This sense of hopelessness is a theme examined thoroughly throughout the album.
The second chapter further develops the story line, introducing the characters of Jimmy Sparks, son of Gloria, and his son Junior. The song “Leader of the Landslide” explores the idea that there can never be one singular “leader” of the landslide. In The Sparks family, their dark addiction and brokenness is passed on from person to person. Junior sees his father as the cause of his addiction, his father sees his mother as the cause, and so on.
The third chapter sets the final scene for Jimmy Sparks, the father of Junior, whose wife Bonnie leaves him. To cope, he turns to alcohol and gambling, causing him to neglect his son. The last songs of this chapter, “April” and “The Salt and the Sea,” portray a kind of dreary, melancholy feeling to close the final chapter of The Sparks family’s story.
The intentionality and creative thought processes behind this dual-medium album, creates both a sensational and magical experience. It takes an approach that surpasses all conceptual boundaries through an extremely raw narrative about addiction as it affects all members of a family.
Bringing a juxtaposition of emotions, each chapter creates a space for listeners to become a part of the story, letting them empathize through their ears and eyes.
This album applies a child-like fantasy to a grown-up reality, glorifying the fictional production of characters to tell non-fictional truths and overall expressing the fiercely powerful qualities of art.