Monday, October 15, 2012


Mumford & Sons made a big splash with their debut, Sigh No More, crafting a unique sound that combined folk instruments with big, epic chords and a rock beat.  All you really need to know is that big sound is back with Babel.  Acoustic guitars are strummed with ferocity.  The banjo is plucked close to the point of breaking strings, in machine gun fashion.  Drums and bass pound and thud, to create that huge presence.  Singer Marcus Mumford bellows above it all.  Those are the louder ones, anyway.  First single I Will Wait is a perfect example, a fine song but one that has already become so well known in a few weeks that I keep forgetting if it's on the new album or the first one.  It is awfully similar to other ones on that disc.

It's actually the middle part of the new album that reveals the most about the band, and Mumford's songwriting.  There are a group of ballads in a row that let us here more than just the banjo and acoustics at full volume.  There are nice harmonies and a subtle mix of other instruments.  Strings and horns get added in, and the lyrics are bigger stories, with a touch of the mystic.  Yet even these get a little overwrought in the closing minute, as the group falls for the trap that making the song louder in some way makes it more important.  Don't get me wrong, they do it well, and it makes for some exciting listening, but we've now had two albums with the same style being repeated.

It still has some pretty stunning songs though.  Both Hopeless Wanderer and Broken Crown are full of drama and tension, with the intensity building throughout.  Yet the banjo and the vocal also add in a certain bit of joy, so that the end result is exhilaration.  It's no wonder the band is such a popular live act right now.

You have two choices for Babel, the basic edition, or the deluxe which adds three tracks.  Hmm, there's a five buck difference for that privilege, at least at, which seems steep, $12.99 or $17.99.  The big draw of the extra three is the group's cover of The Boxer, which they do with Paul Simon, although you'd never know the author is there unless you read the credits.  Actually, I like the cut For Those Below better, because it's one of the rare, non-bombastic tracks they do.

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