Folk-rock is a music genre that has covered the parts of our lives when we need a good late-night driving song or music to soothe and relax our brains.
The Lumineers is a folk-rock band with core members Wesley Schultz, Jeremiah Fraites and Neyla Pekarek. The members have been playing together since 2005 but first made their mark on the music industry in 2012 with their debut album, “The Lumineers.”
The group’s iconic song from the album, “Ho-Hey,” reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 list. Following its successful debut, The Lumineers dropped “Cleopatra” back in 2016.
The Lumineers just added another record to its discography with “III,” released Friday.
“III” is an album that doesn’t follow the typical release template most albums follow in the music industry. Most albums come out on a certain date but will release a few singles from the album until it comes out to give people a preview of it. “III” is a compilation of three small EPs that follow a chronological chapter order. The first chapter is called “Gloria Sparks,” which came out May 17. The second chapter is called “Junior Sparks,” which dropped Aug. 16. The last chapter is called “Jimmy Sparks,” which released Sept. 12. All of these EPs, as well as some bonus tracks, completed the record, which dropped Sept. 13.
This album isn’t just different in how it’s constructed, but in how it tells its story. “III” is made to listen in chronological order. It follows the story of three fictional family members by the names of Gloria, Junior and Jimmy. Gloria is the mother of Jimmy, and Jimmy is Junior’s father. The entire album is focused on this family and how addiction and alcoholism affect their relationships with each other.
The song “Donna” on the first EP refers to Gloria’s mother and how her lack of love and affection growing up lead Gloria to find love in the wrong places, like alcohol. This is revealed in the song “Gloria,” when the lyrics say, “Gloria, I smell it on your breath/Gloria, booze and peppermint/Gloria, no one said enough is enough/Gloria, they found you on the floor.”
The album then transitions the listener to the next chapter about Junior Sparks. He is first introduced in the song “It Wasn’t Easy Being Happy For You,” which tells the story of his first heartbreak. “Leader of the Landslide,” tells the narrative of Junior getting older when it’s just him and his father, Jimmy Sparks, living together. They have a rough relationship full of physical abuse from Jimmy toward Junior. That leads Junior to start drinking, which parallels Donna and Gloria’s relationship in the first album. The EP concludes with an exploration of Junior’s grief due to the absence of his mother, who left the family and left him alone with his abusive father.
The last EP concentrates on the father of Junior and son of Gloria — Jimmy Sparks. The song “Jimmy Sparks” reveals Jimmy’s character development, from finding his first love in a girl named Bonnie to living the life of a single dad trying to make ends meet. The listener learns of shocking things he did to provide for his son. Through selling blood, gambling and having loan sharks take pretty much everything he owns, Jimmy finds ways to provide for Junior.
The album concludes with the song “Salt and The Sea,” which leaves Jimmy and the listener with the hope that things are going to be okay.
“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 words, coming from Jimmy Sparks, presumably, illustrate his desire for redemption and mending his relationship with his son.
This album really tugs at the heartstrings. Listening to each song from start to finish makes you feel like a fly on the wall inside the family’s household. I strongly recommend the album not just for fans of the band, but also for people who enjoy music that tells a story. This album highlights how substance and domestic abuse works like a cycle — where the actions of one person can have negative consequences on the next. This truth can be tough to listen to, but it starts an important conversation on how to stop this cycle.
You can follow the narrative on YouTube, which visually captures the story of the Sparks Family.