Mumford & Sons
Oct 04, 2012 Web Exclusive
Though the band hails from London, Mumford & Sons sold more than two million copies of its last album, 2009’s Sigh No More, on the strength of what presented a lot like a summative history of Americana—gospel-esque vocal passion, roots-y acoustic guitar and banjo instrumentation, mild bluegrass sensibility, and even a tour by train that brought to mind the infamous 1970 Festival Express with Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, and The Band.
Now, three years later and after almost nonstop touring, the band is back with its sophomore album, and, somewhat remarkably, very little has changed. This is not to say that one expected a drastic reworking of what brought Mumford & Sons so much success the first time around, but Babel seems very much like a crisper replaying of Sigh No More. Your perception of this as a good or bad thing essentially depends on how much you liked the band’s first album. The album’s first single, “I Will Wait,” features galloping banjo that belies any hesitation suggested by the lyrics. “Ghosts That We Will” is a huge melody with banjo, loping this time, and introspective lyrics. “Lover of the Light” seems like it would very easily fit into a Dave Matthews solo set, and “Lovers’ Eyes” is a ballad, heavy on internal rhyme, that errs on the lyrically self-serious side. Elsewhere, “Hopeless Wanderer” starts as a beatific piano ballad before exploding into furious pleading, leader Marcus Mumford intoning: “Hold me fast, because I’m a hopeless wanderer.” And “Below My Feet” is nothing less than a five-minute hymn.
With Babel, Mumford & Sons has proven that it can do it again, replicating all that made Sigh No More so successful and well loved. It’s certainly not a departure from the band’s debut, but rather a continuation. The degree to which you feel it shows an artistic progression is a matter of perspective. Initially, the songs on Babel will simply bring to mind favorite tracks on Sigh No More, but the album distinguishes itself with consecutive listens. At the very least, it sounds almost as good, if not better, this time around.
Author rating: 6.5/10
Average reader rating: 4/10