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The Lumineers

Cleopatra – 2016 (Dualtone)

Reviewed by Rick Bell

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True, The Lumineers' sophomore followup to their wildly successful 2013 debut doesn't contain an anthemic singalong like "Ho Hey." Admittedly it's easy for the mind to drift as "Cleopatra" never kicks in much past second gear. It's even kind of frustrating that you have to crank the volume not because there's a great tune to sing along with, but because you have to strain to hear it.

You'd think that by song seven you'd get something a bit more upbeat than the ultra-mellow "Gale Song." This is shoe-gazing, introspective, plodding folk rock at its finest.

That all said, there's still a lot to listen to among these 11 cuts. Singer-songwriter-guitarist Wesley Shultz already has one of the most distinctive voices on radio. And despite the laid-back nature of the assembled tunes he sings each with a songwriter's conviction. He aches at the pain of growing old in the title cut. Schultz shuns the world around him - maybe even his critics? - as he urgently strums his acoustic guitar on "Sick in the Head." Fellow Lumineer Jeremiah Fraites chips in with a sweet - and yes, mellow - piano riff to conclude the album.

And just to satisfy those of us looking for a reason to croon along, "Gun Song" builds to an anthemic climax with its "la la la's" and the radio-friendly "Ophelia" has the catchy refrain that begins with "O-o-phelia."

It's a record that requires a deep listen several times through. Schultz's vocals carry Simone Felice's bare-bones production and simplistic, relaxed vibe. And lyrically it's tremendously satisfying.

Still, if The Lumineers expect listeners to stick through 11 first- and second-gear songs, we wouldn't complain if they kicked it into third or fourth gear a time or two.