Finding the BRIGHTSIDE with the Lumineers ★★★★  

By Poorvika Mehra

It’s been two years since the Lumineers released III, their masterpiece concept album which explored addiction through the eyes of three generations of the fictional Sparks family. Upon the announcement of BRIGHTSIDE, fans (including myself) have been speculating how the band might meet the high bar set by III’s exceptional creativity – but in true Lumineers fashion, they did not fall short of the mark. Where III was a deep-dive into the raw and gritty world of drug and alcohol abuse, BRIGHTSIDE is an honest bottle of sunshine in a jar. The album does what we need it to do in the face of a pandemic: it gives us a true sense of joy to hold onto, despite the common feeling that our world is falling apart. This sentiment is repeated time and time again throughout the album and is the thread that ties this musical offering together so beautifully. 

The anthemic and bold ‘BRIGHTSIDE’ kicks off the album on a realistically optimistic note. The lyrics paint an imperfect scenario – the band’s lead singer Wesley Schultz sings about someone feeling broken on a bridge at night, lonely and crying for family. In a situation where there’s nothing to possibly be hopeful about, Schultz extends a lifeline in the chorus: “I’ll be your bright side baby tonight”. Schultz’ brand of positivity is human, refusing to ignore the pain in life and choosing to look for the ‘brightside’ despite it all. This thread of hope rings true in the album’s hooking stomp-and-holler piece ‘WHERE WE ARE’, with Schultz proverbially throwing his hands up to declare “I don’t know where we are, but we will be okay”. 

In ‘A.M RADIO’, one of my personal favourites on the album, Schultz and drummer Jeremiah Fraites give us a peek into what anchors their hope in moments of darkness. The song is an earnest encouragement to never give up your life’s calling. “Long as you run / I couldn’t give you up” is the duo’s ode to their own love for music – a passion that resulted in their success (this album) and them making it through the hardest parts of the pandemic. The loud and free chorus, perfect to sing along to around a campfire or a big concert, is intertwined with a gentle, intimate verse resulting in a deeply personal, yet bold production. 

‘REMINGTON’ and ‘REPRISE’ go hand-in-hand, bringing us to a reflective close on this album. The theme of hope continues on right until the end, with Schultz softly singing that he’s “heading for the lights / heading for the bright side baby tonight”. The Lumineers focus on their own ray of sun-bathed redemption in these two songs, wrapping up the album by promising that they too, are “waiting on the sun” in the trying times we live in. 

Listening to this album was like coming up for air after a long time under tumultuous waters. In a world where ‘unprecedented circumstances’ are the cornerstone of our existence and no one really knows when things are going to get better, false platitudes are emotionally crippling. But, as ‘REPRISE’ winds down at the end of BRIGHTSIDE, this 9 track album pulls the curtain back on life’s disasters and at the end of your listening journey, teaches you to believe that it’ll all be okay anyway.

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