Cleopatra is an album released by The Lumineers in 2016. Deeply underrated, beautiful in the way it was created, I came across this album by accident on YouTube. Sleep on the Floor came up next and it enamored me immediately. This album is nothing like anything I’ve heard, having a backstory that wasn’t entirely about the band’s journey, writing about themselves and about a different character within the same album. I loved that the entire album contemplated, reflected upon the band’s place within this small world and yet it chronicled the life of a taxi driver, who drove a myriad of different people as she second-guessed her way through her life choices, wondering if she did alright in life. The music videos are another phenomenon altogether, released at random, probably not making much sense but having a common small mysterious lead which is all wrapped up in the final ballad which is released at the end. It makes you feel so much that you can’t really say what you feel. Cathartic, relaxing, contemplative, and so much more than the words here. Definitely more.
Most albums would hang on to a common theme, usually about a journey an artist usually goes through, problems and issues they face and written away to describe a particular phase in life. Yet the way The Lumineers created this album is a collection of thoughts and sure, it doesn’t need a wholesome theme as a foundation for each and every song. Heck, the songs don’t even need to be a particular order for the entire album to make sense and Patience is a good example of it. Patience is an instrumental in the album, one of the rare piano instrumentals I love. It reveals itself slowly, playing back and forth, yet it sort of asks you to listen, to think, to remember.
To remember what? Nothing exactly, but maybe everything.
One of songs, Ophelia, tells the stories of success, expectations and pressures the band felt as they rose to fame. Ophelia also reminds them to appreciate everything that has happened to them. It is portrayed in the lyrics below:
I, I got a little paycheck
You got big plans and you gotta move
And I don’t feel nothing at all
And you can’t feel nothing small
One of my favorite songs in the album, Sleep On the Floor, is about moving to different cities and having a huge dream, of fulfilling that promise, of wanting to make it big. It’s all of these things. These words don’t do justice to the song, so the only way you’ll know its great is by listening to it. Some of the lyrical excerpts that capture the gist of song are as below:
And when we looked outside, couldn’t even see the sky
How do you pay the rent, is it your parents?
Or is it hard work dear, holding the atmosphere?
I don’t wanna live like that
Jesus Christ can’t save me tonight
Put on your dress, yes wear something nice
Decide on me, yea decide on us
Oh, oh, oh, Illinois, Illinois
Trust The Lumineers to make ‘Illinois’ sound good in a song.
Anyway, after reading reviews on the album, I came to a very surprising discovery that The Lumineers actually wrote a song for The Hunger Games, titled Gale Song. The song is in Gale’s point of view. Despite being unrelated to the theme of the album, it actually rather fit it and after listening carefully, it is rather heartbreaking.
And I won’t fight in vain
I’ll love you just the same
I couldn’t know whats in your mind
But I saw the pictures, you’re looking fine
There was a time I stood in line
For love, for love, for love
But I let you go, oh I let you go
Cleopatra has so much to offer yet it isn’t an easy album to digest. It took time, even for me, to develop an acquired taste to enjoy the album with its mellow tunes and American folk style. But once its deeper meanings unfurled – slowly, fully but surely – soon I became completely absorbed, wondering why I had overlooked it the first few times I listened to it.