This fall, The Lumineers released a three-part story in their third album, titled “III”. This album differs from their previous two and leaves listeners wondering what has changed their tone. “Cleopatra,” their second album, was full of life advice from a grey-haired taxi driver. Their self-titled first album was full of oceanside pomp and storytelling charm. The happy tunes topped the charts instantly.
“III” doesn’t contain the same cheery love stories and rambunctious, free-living emotions. Instead, it highlights the generational pain of addiction. The album is centered around the Sparks family. Wesley Shultz, lead singer, said he hopes to create a relatable family. During a performance of this album, he opened up about a loved one who struggles with addiction who was the band’s inspiration. Shultz and his wife helped his family member get into rehab and find a house, but it served only as a temporary fix. Shultz was emotional as he shared that this loved one is living on the streets and has succumbed to the overwhelming pull of addiction.
Gloria is the first character to appear on the album and is based on Shultz’s family member. “The reason I created characters around her was to give me a buffer to be explicit without exploiting her pain,” Shultz explained. He created Gloria as a salve for the stinging pain of family addition. He hopes that others can find peace through this album as well.
The first three songs tell Gloria’s story. She lives with her husband and their baby Jimmy. She stumbles through the house trying to cope with her addiction while baby Jimmy plays alone on the floor. Her husband lovingly tries to support her, but he is met by an empty look in her eyes. The video for the song “Gloria” shows the spiral of addiction in her life. During a fight with her husband, she hurls glass at his head and has to rush him to the hospital. However, this fateful drive ends in a wreck. The moment the red and blue lights flash, she sprints through her injuries into an open Colorado field, ultimately abandoning her family.
The second chapter features her grandson, Junior. “Leader of the Landslide” showcases the real ugliness of addiction. We, as the audience, watch as Junior loses respect for his father and all others in his life. During their St. Louis, MO. concert on Feb. 5, Shultz led with a strong, emotional force that captivated the entire arena. The emotion in his voice created a feeling of closeness that is often only achieved during small venue but was beautifully achieved in front of thousands of fans.
The final chapter is the darkest picture of addiction and generational pain. It highlights Jimmy, Gloria’s son, and his spiral of addition that leads to pain and emptiness. “Salt and the Sea” is a painful depiction of the end of the story: “I’ll let the darkness swallow me whole / I need to find you, need you to know / I’ll be your friend in the daylight again / There we will be, like an old enemy / like the salt and the sea.” These lyrics allow the audience to be resolved in the pain of addiction—to see it as it has destroyed a family, but to still understand the love that is shared despite this deep pain and trauma.
In “III,” The Lumineers have created something unique and priceless: they have captured the emotion of loving those stuck in addition. Schultz explains addiction this way: “Loving an addict is like standing among the crashing waves, trying to bend the will of the sea.” This album gives voice to those who feel their existence is the found in the crashing waves. The Lumineers have created a unique album and a story-telling perspective for listeners to wade through while staying true to their Colorado-folk roots.