With their sophomore effort, Cleopatra, the Lumineers attempt to recapture the formula that made them famous: injecting the more traditional sound of Americana with bursts of rhythmic folk-rock gospel. Unfortunately, this retooled style was already bled for all its worth—which wasn’t very much—on the band’s 2012 self-titled debut, most notably the hit “Ho Hey.” Here, frontman Wesley Schultz’s limpid, reverb-laden lead vocals drive the album’s opening track, “Sleep on the Floor,” making the faint distorted guitar and sparing background vocals seem like they exist solely to bolster his alto screams. Schultz’s admittedly commanding, full-range vocals fail to elevate the song, which the band has likened to the work of Bruce Springsteen and (inexplicably) John Steinbeck, above a mere ditty about a determined and romantic escape from town that fades quickly from one’s memory. Cleopatra aims for the breathlessly authentic Americana of Ryan Adams’s Heartbreaker and the Boss’s Nebraska, but the lyrics throughout merely conjure nondescript country towns riddled with clichés. “Gun Song,” about breaking someone’s neck for a sweetheart and finding a Smith and Wesson pistol in Daddy’s sock drawer, coasts on an ingratiating melody and a marching-drum crescendo, but lacks the emotionally gratifying climaxes of similar material by, say, Fleet Foxes. “Long Way from Home,” about a dying man humiliated in a hospital robe that doesn’t fit, and “In the Light,” which examines the trappings of one’s personal past and isolation, are the album’s most intimate offerings. Ultimately, though, Cleopatra is simply Americana pastiche we’ve heard a hundred times before.
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