Review: Mumford and Sons sticks to its roots with "Babel"

"I Will Wait” from Mumford and Sons’ second album, Babel.

 

Every Mumford and Sons song sounds the same. It’s a formula.

But it’s a beautiful one.

The tracks typically open with a mellow acoustic guitar and Marcus Mumford’s soft voice. The voice and guitar keep building as more instruments join this sonorous orgy of banjos and mandolins making love in a grassy meadow somewhere. Then it’s quiet. Marcus’s voice drops to a whisper as he repeats something about “hearts” and “love” a few times. And suddenly the instruments return for the climax, everything sounding at once in a beautiful chaos.

Babel, released on Sept. 24, picks up where the band’s debut album Sigh No More left off.  If you didn’t like Sigh No More, this new album isn’t going to convert you. It’s a more polished, more confident extension to the band’s original success.

If, however, you are one of the many who liked “Little Lion Man” or “The Cave” the first 20 times you heard them until their radio success caused your enthusiasm to drop, Babel is just the refresher you need.

“I Will Wait,” Babel’s single that released in August, reached number 23 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and reassured fans that the band was going to stick with what they knew best: passionate, twangy indie-folk that could captivate both a crowd and a campfire.

Which is just what they want. “We wanted our second album to be an advert for our live shows,” Marcus Mumford said in an interview with NME.

The high energy of the album, produced by Markus Dravs—who has worked with Coldplay and Arcade Fire—instills a desire to sing along with Mumford as he empties his life into a microphone.

The 15-track album, in typical folk fashion, covers all variants of love. From the stubborn determination of blind love in the opening “Babel” to turning away from a poisonous one in “Broken Crown,” if you are feeling anything related to love, you will find a song that resonates with your emotion.

Indie-folk dies when it is nominated for a Grammy. Mumford and Sons have been nominated for six. In spite of this, Babel retains its authenticity and legitimacy within the genre. The band hasn’t let success change their music, they have simply continued where they left off. And they have done a good job of it. Critics might claim that they are riding on their success and distilling their novelty by releasing more of the same, but Babel is Mumford and Sons’ way of telling us that they are here to stay.

Babel gives us a Mumford and Sons confident and content in a sound they have spent four years refining. They have plenty of time to try new styles, but for now they are completely happy to just be Mumford and Sons. And they do not care how you feel about that, because they are going to keep making music anyway.

Copyright Island Records/Wikipedia

If you like Mumford and Sons, you might want to check out these other indie-folk bands:

Fleet Foxes

Great Lake Swimmers

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes

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