The Lumineers, the natural heirs of folk-pop Americana, have an impressive body of work that spans over a decade, painting sonic landscapes punctuated by poetic lyricism and unmistakable instrumental prowess. Their chart-busting tracks have a way of lodging themselves in your mind, each breathing life into its own particular narrative of love, loss, hope and disparate shades of human experience.
The brilliance of anthems like “Ho Hey” and “Ophelia,” flushed with emotion and imbued with a raw, intimate energy, stand testament to the band’s ascendancy in the music industry. Not to overlook the likes of “Stubborn Love” and “Cleopatra,” tracks which managed to encapsulate the band’s melodic aptitude and storytelling magic. Equally moving are their softer, contemplative gems like “Sleep On The Floor” and “Nobody Knows” that unravel with a poignant elegance. The band’s versatility shines through their evolution, apparent in the new-wave energy of “Life In The City,” daresay even a post-punk resonance of “Leader of the Landslide.”
The Lumineers have managed to straddle the spectrum of pop music with a respect for tradition blended with a pursuit for innovation. So let’s get into it. From ‘just like heaven’ to ‘Ho Hey’, here are the Top 25 The Lumineers Songs Ranked, from Worst to Best.
25. just like heaven
The poignant lyricism evokes the desperate longing for love we often feel in our most solitary moments. The tune tells a tale of a lover beseeching their beloved to teach them the ways of love – that unique trick that fills them with euphoria, incites laughter, or sometimes elicits a gut-wrenching scream. This bewitched lover is willing to elope if only they can master ‘that trick’. Yet, reality soon sets in, leaving them alone and heart-wrenched, their beloved lost like a dream in the deep ocean. Their echoic refrain, “You’re just like heaven”, distinguishes the loved one as an illusion of perfection, lost but forever etched in memory. Like a lyrical melodrama, The Lumineers have crafted “Just Like Heaven” into a mirage of love’s ecstasy and agony.
24. Leader Of The Landslide
This emotionally-wrought indie-folk tune grapples with the raw realities of a toxic relationship. It’s a tale of love turned sour, where promises turn into lies and innocence is robbed by excessive drinking and deceit. Frontman Wesley Schultz’s impassioned pleas reflect the profound pain of watching a loved one self-destruct, desperately pleading for their return to sanity. But layered beneath the regret and resentment, we catch glimpses of a complex narrative – a mother’s absence, a father’s helplessness, and the helpless drift into alcoholism. With its haunting melody and vivid lyrics, “Leader Of The Landslide” is a heart-rending exposition of love’s destructive power, affirming The Lumineers’ mastery in painting poignant portraits of human fragility and resilience.
23. Life In The City
It beats with the heart of a dreamer, yearning for the American metropolis of Manhattan, yet feeling cornered by the city’s limitations. Reflecting the sentiment of numerous souls who are drawn to city life, the song captures the tough grind that comes with the promise of opportunity.
Lyrically, the painful undercurrent of nostalgia and personal loss consistently bubble to the surface. The protagonist’s longing for the familiar comfort of family is palpable, acknowledging an intimate fear of isolation in an overwhelming urban landscape. Ultimately, the song becomes a battle cry for resilience and defiance amidst life’s hardships – the refusal to ‘lay down and dig your grave’, but to ‘rail against the dying day’ instead. “Life In The City” is a poignant examination of the human ability to cherish hope in the face of adversity.
22. Charlie Boy
The title heralds the story of a young man, born in ‘44—the heart of WWII. He’s the idealistic Kennedy-era youth, bought into the dream of heroic service. But it’s not just about Charlie; it’s also about Lillian, presumably his mother, and about a community torn asunder by war. This is where The Lumineers paint a picture of familial roles that war reshapes—fatherly pride in service, maternal anxiety and the rebelliousness of the young. Tragically, Charlie’s story seems to end in loss, echoing the lament of the bugle’s taps. The song, a timeless narrative with folk roots, speaks volumes about how personal our collective history is.
21. Big Parade
The song presents an intriguing blend of sociopolitical commentary and intimate personal introspection. It paints a vivid picture of American public life, using imagery of processions, religious figures, and pageants to evoke a sense of grandeur and complexity in everyday experiences. It brings attention to figures both grand and small, from ‘the candidate’ to ‘the man of faith’ and ‘the lonely’ bandstand singer. Amid the grandiosity, a common thread tied within these visuals is the recurring theme of blindness and enlightenment, defining the protagonist’s evolving perspective. “Big Parade” is an evocative exploration of societal pressures, personal disillusionment, and the pursuit of authenticity in a world filled with spectacle and performance.
Cotton-candy sweet Neo-folk melodies contrast a chilling story about a family’s descent into addiction. The song places us in the shoes of an overburdened woman, Donna, a quintessential Lumineers character grappling with her burdened life. It packs an emotional punch as we learn about Donna’s struggle – from her dissatisfaction with her name to the guilt she carries for not being able to sober up to hold her baby.
As we glide through the narrative, we unravel the different layers of Donna’s character – her judgement towards strangers’ karma, her concern over road trucks, her role as a mother. And then, in a distinct Lumineers twist, Donna’s desire for an escape via a funeral, all while singing like Hallelujah, conveying a sense of heartbreaking resilience in the face of adversity. In “Donna,” The Lumineers masterfully weave a tale of love, loss, regret, and the struggle to keep going, making it a standout track in their discography.
19. Slow It Down
The track exudes rawness and vulnerability in its storytelling, capturing the complexities of human emotions and relationships. What begins as a stark confession of a toxic relationship with lines like “I feel her filth in my bones” quickly transforms into a poignant plea – “Slow it down, Angie, come back to bed, Rest your arms and rest your legs”. It’s this direct and desperate call for a return to intimacy and connection that acts as an emotional anchor for the listener.
As the song progresses, the struggle to accept the reality of love lost is conveyed through lines like “And when it came to love, We were not good enough”. The song is a chilling contemplation of heartbreak and desperate longing. Infused with elements of folk and indie rock, the execution resonates a poignant understanding of loss, making “Slow It Down” an emotional rollercoaster that sticks to the ribs of anyone who’s ever had their heart strung out to dry.
The song’s lyrics paint a vivid picture of a couple drifting through life, their journey marked by flawed circumstances: a broken heater, psychedelic trips in hotel rooms, and police encounters. Yet amid these struggles, the reoccurrence of ‘the light in your eyes’ serves as a lighthouse, often rendered alone on the metaphorical freeway. It’s a poignant refrain that captures the raw strength of hope and human connection. One half of the couple promises to be the other’s ‘brightside,’ a beacon of light and comfort, during their worst moments. “BRIGHTSIDE” is, at its core, a tale of unwavering faith in love, despite odds, spun into a musical tapestry by The Lumineers’ distinctive brand of rustic, folksy pop.
The overriding metaphor of a heart so big it could crush a town speaks to the immense power of love and human connection, a force strong enough to bring even the most fortified walls down. This poignant message, coupled with the band’s signature melancholic melody and soul-stirring vocals, creates a hauntingly beautiful ode to the resilience of the human spirit.
As with other Lumineers’ classics, “Walls” strips away the trivialities and delves deep into the core of what it means to love, lose, and forge ahead amidst life’s changing tides. It stands as a testament to the band’s rich tapestry of emotive storytelling through music.
16. Salt And The Sea
A ballad stripped back to its raw, emotional core, the song vividly illustrates a story of pain, solitude, and longing for solvency amidst chaos. The Lumineers masterfully weave layered metaphors into the fabric of this track, painting visceral scenes of darkness, despair, and moments of faint hope. The pain is as palpable as the tears shed in the night, as unshakeable as the dread faced alone in a room. Yet, it’s also a song about emotional resilience and seeking solace, mirrored by the lingering promise of friendship in the lyrics. The salt and the sea, two natural elements bound together yet inherently disruptive, act as a potent symbol for a tumultuous relationship and the contrasting feelings of love and grief. This track, like much of The Lumineers’ discography, showcases their knack for storytelling and lyrical depth, capturing the human struggle in its most vulnerable state.
15. Gale Song
In capitulating their trademark folksy indie sound, the band dives deep into a poignant narrative, underscored by the lead vocalist Wesley Schultz’s soul-baring lyrics and powerful performance. A man laments over his decision of letting his lover go, resulting in a heartbreak that’s no stranger to the human condition.
In the lyrics, the protagonist’s struggle to cope with his loneliness is palpable. He yearns for the one he bid farewell to, regretting his past decisions and the distance it has created, a sentiment aptly embodied in the lines “And I won’t fight in vain, I’ll love you just the same” and “I let you go, oh, I let you go.” The raw vulnerability of the lyrics, combined with the intimate instrumentation of The Lumineers, makes “Gale Song” a standout on their discography. It’s an anthem of desolation, longing, and acceptance, all wrapped up in the band’s signature acoustic charm.
14. Dead Sea
The poignant lyrics unravel a narrative of a restless soul, weary of life’s mendacity and in desperate search for truth and tranquility. A tribute to the invincibility and comforting consistency of the Dead Sea, the song metaphorically establishes the protagonist as a safe harbor in times of turmoil.
Interestingly, the song also broaches the subject of survival and breaking free from the chains of domesticity and societal expectations. It depicts a character who has decided to live life on their own terms, following the loss of a paternal figure. The lyrics further underscore moments of despair and defeat, subtly hinting at the protagonist’s struggle to remain afloat.
Ultimately, “Dead Sea” is a stunning testament to the undying essence of human perseverance, narrated eloquently by The Lumineers in their distinct folk-pop musical style. It’s a solemn reminder that even in the deepest trenches of despair, love and trust serve as lighthouses guiding us towards hope and revival.
13. A.M. RADIO
RADIO,” the Lumineers’ ode to destabilizing love and its inevitable decay, reflects a deep-rooted understanding of how relationships can shape, define, and occasionally torment us. Marked by starkly evocative lyrics, the song uses radio as a nostalgic symbol for a past love that’s constantly buzzing in the protagonist’s mind. At the intersection of unfulfilled promises and disillusionment, the protagonist wrestles with the decision to let go or hang on. A key line that surfaces throughout the song, “Long, as you run, I couldn’t give you up,” speaks to the emotional tug of war rooted in a connection that’s hard to sever, even when it’s clearly imploding. RADIO” stands out for the Lumineers’ staple raw, acoustic sound that pairs perfectly with the somber, introspective theme. It’s a tune that gets under your skin, an echo of a relationship that lingers long after it has met its demise, serving as a testimony to the band’s capacity to translate complex human emotions into simple yet haunting melodies.
12. Long Way From Home
Ranking at number 23 in our list, it’s a cinematic tale of separation, pain, and resilience amidst adversity. Songwriters Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites craft a narrative oscillating between physical ailment and emotional disquiet, effectively blurring the lines between the literal and the metaphorical. The lyrics delve deep – exploring themes of lost youth, selfishness, and the inevitable toll of time. The protagonist is presented as both a restless spirit, flying “as far as I could go,” and a stoic victim, enduring pain with a stoicism that’s profoundly moving. The hospital setting anchors the narrative in harsh reality, while the disconnected person lying in bed gives it an existential spin. As the song concludes, there’s a poignant resonance to its central image – despite being in close proximity, the disconnection makes one feel a ‘long way from home’.
11. WHERE WE ARE
Framed around the poignant refrain, “I don’t know where we are, but it will be okay,” the song channels the quintessential Lumineers approach of seeking solace amidst the chaos of life. A deep dive into the lyrics reveals a narrative of disorientation, as the protagonist grapples with a sense of loss and a blurred sense of reality. The evocative imagery of holding onto a steering wheel and coming up for air or crashing a car in Arizona adds a palpable layer of vulnerability and despair. Yet, amidst all this ambiguity, there’s a distinct glimmer of optimism. A resolve that, despite not knowing where they are or what lies ahead, it will be okay. The track cleverly encapsulates the human struggle to make sense of our place in the world, and the reassurance that it’ll all work out in the end.
10. Where The Skies Are Blue
The lyrics paint a vivid picture of someone in search of their true self, perhaps leaving one lover to embark on a journey of self-discovery. While they express a sense of loss, they also convey a firm resolve. This is no heartbreak anthem, but a fortified declaration that they’ll be just fine, thank you very much, found ‘where the skies are blue’. It’s a recurring narrative, though, one that’s defined by expression of love, resilience and hope. The mellow, harmonic tune is quintessential Lumineers – easy, catchy, yet hit you right in the feels. Ultimately, with this song, the band uses an individual’s contemplation of change to tell a wider tale of emotional growth, staying true to their core style of intimately narrating real-life stories through their music.
The narrative storytelling of The Lumineers shines through in the character study of Gloria – a woman wrestling with addiction, as portrayed strikingly in the lyrics. The band’s lyricism delves into the heartache, confusion, and helplessness often brought about by substance abuse, not just for the individual struggling, but for those around them as well. The melancholic plea in the chorus, “Heaven help me now,” conveys a desperate cry for divine intervention and a longing for course correction, a theme common in The Lumineers’ repertoire. The repeated phrase “Gloria, no one said enough is enough,” reflects a spiral of enabling and codependence. Overall, it’s a deeply moving track that showcases the band’s knack for infusing catchy folk-pop tunes with substantive narratives.
The narrative takes us on an introspective journey where Angela, the central character, leaves her town, symbolising stepping out of her comfort zone. The crisscrossing interplay of nature and urban themes, where road and sky align or cities marked on signs, beautifully underscores the dialogues within Angela’s mind, a reflection of embracing uncertainty and personal battles. The Lumineers have this knack for crafting raw, narrative-driven songs that hit you like a quiet tidal wave. “Angela” is no different. Its melancholic charm lies in its exploration of Angela’s quest for self-discovery, her yearning for respite, and ultimately finding her ‘home’. Contrasted with the more upbeat melody, the lyrics spiral into a narrative of escape, self-confrontation, and the eventual peace and acceptance that comes with time. The song ultimately serves as an allegory for our personal journeys, validating our personal struggles and the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
7. Nobody Knows
The song’s introspective lyrics reflect on the inherent challenges of saying goodbye and the pursuit of finding one’s way back home, trying to navigate through the metaphorical darkness towards the dawn. The subtle layer of existentialism prompts listeners to live in the present, acknowledging the ambiguity of life’s final chapters. It’s clear that the lyrics of “Nobody Knows” resonate a collective human experience that everyone can connect with. The song’s narrative intrigue is compounded by the melodic simplicity, making it a quintessential Lumineers track. Yes, this song might not have the radio-friendly lightness of “Ho Hey” or “Ophelia,” but there’s no denying the depth of its lyrical prowess and its ability to evoke profound emotions in the listener.
6. Sleep On The Floor
The song delves deep into the psyche of youthful recklessness and romanticizes the idea of leaving everything behind for a shot at an unfettered existence. The lyrics dialogue about packing a toothbrush and a favorite blouse, withdrawing all savings, and leaving town, evoking raw wanderlust. The narrator contemplates running far from the restrictive boundaries of his small town, along with his lover, against all odds, including subways flooding and bridges breaking. It’s a poignant reminder of the recklessness of youth, the aspiration for freedom, and the yearning to break away from societal norms. It’s a narrative of two young hearts daring to defy their circumstances and striving for a taste of heady liberation. It’s an ode to freedom, to courage, and ultimately, to love.
Through emotionally charged storytelling, the song navigates Cleopatra’s journey, a woman crippled by the choices she made, and more poignantly, the choices she didn’t. The song is persistently punctuated by the poetics of unfulfilled love and missed opportunities, as Cleopatra navigates through life in her metaphorical black dress.
Crucially, the song also underscores the theme of life’s temporality. The Lumineers brilliantly use the notion of time – being late – as an allegory for Cleopatra’s regrets and her tragic inability to seize the moment. On a deeper level, Cleopatra’s narrative isn’t just about one woman’s tale, but a universal exploration of the human condition; the pain, regret, and the yearning for what could have been.
“Cleopatra” arrives subtly but leaves a massive impact, solidifying The Lumineers’ knack for creating a masterpiece that combines vivid storytelling with blistering pop power. It’s intimate, it’s emotional, and most importantly, it’s human, reflecting the intricate complexities of life and love.
4. Stubborn Love
Its lyrics paints a story of love marked by deception, regret, and an unyielding devotion, punctuated by poignant moments of introspection that plunges listeners into the depths of love’s complexities. As it unfolds, the narrative of a love broken yet undeterred takes center stage, weaving a tableau of mistakes, perseverance, and an unwavering resolve to keep one’s head up amidst the throes of love’s trials.
The song bleeds with the intensity of a love not easily discarded, embodying the push and pull paradox of longing and indifference. The Lumineers establish themselves as not just raconteurs, but emotional cartographers, mapping the terrain of love’s pains and small victories with lyrical precision. “Stubborn Love” serves as a heartfelt anthem for the wounded yet undaunted, the lied to yet still believing — epitomising the magic of The Lumineers’ storytelling mettle.
3. Flowers in Your Hair
Third on our list, this track is the poignant sound of unripened love, the giddy uncertainty of adolescence filtered through a mature lens. Sure, it’s got the archetypal Lumineers foot-stomp and aw-shucks charm, but don’t let that fool you. There’s a profound exploration of the transition from boyhood to manhood. Delving into the ideals of first love, the song beautifully encapsulates the ‘short road to being ignored’ when wisdom is lacking. The robustness of our perceptions in youth is underscored; the poignant realization that compromise is a necessary ingredient in adult relationships is expressed. It’s that classic Lumineers recipe – sugar-coated thoughtfulness backed by a folksy melody – that makes “Flowers in Your Hair” a standout in their discography. It’s not just a song, it’s a fleeting glance back at the fragility and idealism of our younger selves.
The song is weaved with the Lumineers’ signature Americana sound, filled with raw percussion, rhythmic hand claps, and an undeniably catchy melody. “Ophelia” is a narrative of unrequited love and charming naivety, nestled within the band’s folk-inspired aesthetic.
In terms of the lyrics, the song tells a tale of a man tormented by an unattainable love for a woman named Ophelia. Threading a sense of desperation and yearning, The Lumineers’ lead vocalist, Wesley Schultz, pours his heart into the confessional lyrics. His voice is a potent blend of raw emotion and lingering regret, as he sings about falling foolishly for someone who doesn’t reciprocate his emotions. It’s a classic tale of love and loss presented in a refreshingly modern indie-folk package. The sharp lyrics juxtaposed with the upbeat rhythm captures a poignant sense of heartbreak, making “Ophelia” an unforgettable track in The Lumineers’ discography.
1. Ho Hey
We’re about to delve into “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers; this folksy anthem is sure to keep you bobbing your head and tapping your feet. Immersed in raw energy, this anthem is a shining example of folk-pop dynamism, a delicious blend of jubilant cadences and tender vulnerability. The lyrics reveal the story of a soul yearning for connection and sense of belonging.
This tune is not just about simple love ballads. It conveys a profound desire for a connection that transcends the mundane, one that is etched in the heart and soul. The singer talks about feeling lost and isolated, while holding on to the hope that he can still belong to someone. Then, in the chorus, the song beautifully aggrandizes the idea of belonging and reciprocity in love. The ‘Ho!’ and ‘Hey!’ interspersed throughout add to the anthem-like quality, fabricating an atmosphere that bridges the space between the band and their audience.
Striking a perfect balance between catchy verses and profound meaning, “Ho Hey” is a brilliant testament to The Lumineers’ ability to musically depict the human quest for belonging and love. It’s no wonder why it sticks with the listeners and continues to resonate on the airwaves.