The Lumineers Get Personal on “III”


The Lumineers return with their third album. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Gracie Davis, Contributing Writer

The Lumineers’ third album, “III,” which is split into three parts, tells the story of the fictional Sparks family and dives into the painful progression of addiction from the early to late stages and from generation to generation.

The album’s story begins with Gloria, who struggles with alcoholism and raising her son, Jimmy. The opening three songs chronicle her painful battle with both alcohol itself as well as the divisions she creates in her family because of it. In the second group of songs, Junior, Gloria’s grandson, wonders if his grandmother is still alive, since she left her family so long before he got to know her. In “Leader of the Landslide,” he asks, “Is she dead? Is she fine?” He can only imagine.

Junior’s own mother abandoned him as well — he has only his father, Jimmy, who is preoccupied with a gambling addiction. The addiction stems from the hurt of both his mother and wife leaving him as well as from financial necessity. This abandonment comes roundabout when, after listening to his father’s selfish advice to never take in hitchhikers, Junior ignores a man walking back from the casinos who needs a ride. Jimmy, barefoot and alone, watches his son drive past him, completely unempathetic as a result of his own self-interested instruction. The song “Jimmy Sparks” pieces together these fragmented memories and morals learned from each other’s ventures and mistakes.

In an interview with NPR, lead vocalist Wesley Schultz and drummer Jeremiah Fraites were asked if this kind of melancholic music is difficult to play at concerts, where people are supposed to be having fun. They believe, though, that the point of music is to bring people together — not necessarily to give people a fun time.

The vignettes of “III” are not uncommon in the families of The Lumineers’ audience, and Schultz and Faites know the stories well themselves; each has a close personal friend or family member that had in part inspired the album.

“You know they talk about addiction. It’s a progressive disease. It’s not something where you just wake up and you’re homeless and you’re begging for crack or heroin,” Fraites said to NPR.

The album’s buildup reflects addiction itself — each song with a more tragic story than the last. Incredibly deep character development occurs over the course of this hour-long experience.

The various characters and stories of “III” show how a painful, oppressive past can encourage reckless, free living, even if the living is far from perfect. The Lumineers don’t quite sugarcoat the bleak aspects of life about which they tell, but they make the imperfections in life seem bearable — necessary, even — in order to have a complete spectrum of emotions, a complete being. They celebrate uncertainty and throw nonchalance at the things they can’t control.

This richly honest and hopeful album is an anthem for the struggling and the oppressed.
It is a plea for people to realize the power of influence and to realize the impact that sharing your story can have.