By: Samantha Illenz
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y.- The American indie folk band, The Lumineers, released their third studio album “III” early Sept. 2019. Along with the musical album, the band created and released a full visual album which is composed of ten videos, one for each track of the album. The album is separated into three chapters, each focusing on a different member of the fictional dysfunctional, “Sparks” family.
Chapter I includes the songs “Donna,” “Life in the City” and “Gloria,” each revolving around the character Gloria Sparks. The video for “Donna” introduces us to the completely distraught Gloria Sparks. Gloria is not only a struggling drug addict and alcoholic, but is also struggling to come to terms with her recent venture into motherhood. We may have been introduced to Gloria in the “Donna” video but in “Life in the City,” we are shown the downward spiral into addiction and bar hook-ups. The final video of this chapter,“Gloria,” comes up nothing short of heart wrenching. Following a scene of her holding her child and throwing back a whole bottle of vodka, Gloria then gets rushed to the hospital and gets into a horrible car wreck immediately afterwards. She hobbles out of the car leaving her seriously injured husband behind as she runs from the police. Through the almost twelve minutes of Chapter I, viewers feel the dark pain and struggle of Gloria Sparks and everyone around her.
Chapter II is composed of the songs, “It Wasn’t Easy to be Happy for You,” “Leader of the Landslide” and “Left for Denver.” This chapter focuses in on the grandson of Gloria, Junior Sparks. The four minutes and ten seconds of the video for “It Wasn’t Easy to be Happy for You,” is entirely about a girl that breaks Junior’s heart and leaves him for someone new. “Leader of the Landslide,” includes the common theme of the album which is addiction. Junior has to battle with Gloria’s addiction and it takes a toll on him and through the song and video, the audience feels the heart ache and stress Junior must endure. The last song of Chapter II is about the time when Gloria left Junior and his father and the way it impacted the two. “Left for Denver” is a depressing yet beautiful ballad that expresses the feeling of being left behind. The entirety of Junior Sparks’ chapter creates a strong sense of devastation and being stranded by people close to you.
“My Cell,” “Jimmy Sparks,” “April” and “Salt and the Sea” make up the final chapter of the cinematic album. Chapter III is about the son of Gloria and father to Junior, Jimmy Sparks. “My Cell,” is the first song to focus on Jimmy through the video where we watch Jimmy’s lover hurt and abandon him. The pain in his face resembles the hurt he had also felt when his mother had hurt and left him. “Jimmy Sparks,” introduces us to the world of gambling in which Jimmy dove into in hopes to earn money to raise his son Junior. This is a powerful song and video that induces the feeling of pain that comes from love.
The video for the instrumental “April,” shows Junior driving to a place that we do not know of yet. The end of the video shows a pistol in the passenger seat of Junior’s car. Without any lyrics and only through the video, fear and curiosity is brought to the audience. The final song of the chapter and entire album is “Salt and the Sea.” This video draws parallels between “Salt and the Sea” and “Gloria.” We see Junior and Gloria both kicking doors down to see their family bleeding from a head injury. Junior and Gloria both rush into their car to drive their loved ones to help and end up abandoning them in order to run from the police. This video really ties the album into the full circle of pain, love and abandonment within the Sparks family.
The cinematic album “III” from The Lumineers is a deep, dark and heartbreaking story that is created into an emotional journey for the audience. This album is beautiful within the disaster that is the Sparks family.