Friday, February 15, 2013

"Stubborn Love" / The Lumineers

This always happens. Soon as I publish my annual Best of list, I discover some marvelous albums I didn't even know had been released in the past year. 

The Lumineers, f'r'instance. I can vaguely picture that band name scrolling across the tiny screen of our in-car Sirius receiver, but could I even connect that name with their supremely hooky single "Ho Hey"? I could not.

But I go ahead and buy the CD, because Amazon tells me that people who have bought this album have also bought albums by Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers. Why, that would be me, right? (Don't know about you, but I happen to appreciate those intrusive "you might also be interested in" suggestions that Netflix and Amazon generate from the personal information they have sucked out of my computer....)

And in this case, it did not steer me astray.


Turns out that the jangly loose vibe of "Ho Hey" is not all this band has to offer, which is why I'm sharing this wryly tender love song. "She'll lie and steal and cheat," singer Wesley Schultz begins fondly, over Neyla Pekarek's plangent old-timey cello. (Genius touch, by the way -- the banjo's been done to death lately.)  He's harboring no illusions about this girlfriend/lover -- she'll "beg you from her knees / Make you think she means it this time." I love that grave little pause at the end of each line, as he assesses the damage. "She'll tear a hole in you / One you can't repair / But I still love her, I don't really care."

The charming hookiness of "Ho Hey" surfaces in the chorus: "When we were young, oh-o-oh we did enough / When it got cold, oh-o-oh we bundled up / I can't be told, ah-ah-ah it can't be done." Let's be honest: hooks still work, people, and rootsy as they sound, the Lumineers totally get the magic of hooks.

He's the one whose love is so stubborn, and the tempo stays chipper as he reasons out the why and the wherefore in verse three: "It's better to feel pain  / Than never feel at all /  The opposite of love's indifference /  So pay attention now / I'm standing on your porch screaming out, / And I won't leave until you come downstairs." Shades of John Cusack as Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything.  Well, come on, someone in the relationship has to be the one who hangs in there.

"Keep your head up," he repeats over and over in the bridge, "keep your love." It's like a mantra -- if you repeat it over and over somehow it will bear fruit. You gotta love him for hanging in there.

I love the fact that these guys started out in New Jersey, did the Brooklyn scene for awhile, and decamped to Colorado to find their voice. (That cellist who makes all the difference? She came to them via a Craigslist ad.) Social media, local DJs, and indie labels charted their path to success, totally bypassing the Big Music Industry channels. More power to 'em.

Against my own instincts, I made myself watch the Grammy Awards last week, and lo and behold, there were the Lumineers, beards and fedoras and all, strumming their way into America's hearts. Nice to see them included in the Levon Helm tribute, to my mind the only thing that made that broadcast worth watching. (Okay, and the Bob Marley tribute too.)

Let's root for the grass-roots guys, the ones who somehow get onto the Grammy broadcast even though they've gone the indie route. They give me faith in the future of American music. Sometimes talent does win out.  

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