Mackenzie Cummings-Grady Journal Staff
When Mumford & Sons stepped onto the scene in 2010 with their debut Sigh No More, they rebirthed the folk rock genre into a collection of radio-friendly anthems with boisterous harmonies and thick instrumentals. The album became an international success. It was certified platinum four times in the U.K. and twice in the U.S. With a world tour, and live DVD’s documenting their success, the quartet became one of the biggest names in recent music history. When word reached the public that they were working on a sophomore album in late 2011, Sigh No More crept back onto the Billboard charts, and sat at tenth most-popular album up to current day, building up hype for an album that was sure to shock and awe fans.
Now with the new album Babel upon us, it has already sold more copies its first week than its predecessor. It has beaten out sales of Lupe Fiasco’s new album as well as Green Day’s new album, and so far listeners are satisfied by their new ear candy that they have waited so long to indulge in. Yet, like every piece of Bazooka Bubble gum, once the flavor wears off the customer realizes there is not much to be had in the way of substance. Sure, Babel is a fine album, yet not the step up everyone was expecting. While Sigh No More was like eating a Blow Pop, having delicious substance inside and out, Babel is like eating the last Starburst, in that once it’s swallowed, it’ll leave you wanting more where there is no more to be had.
The album starts off strong, with the opening powerhouse “Babel” reintroducing fans to the raw melodic chaos that the boys are known for. The trend continues with power-ballad “I Will Wait,” the album’s first single, which evokes a heart-wrenching flare in the listener as lead singer Marcus Mumford yearns for a lost love. The excitement continues with the pitch-perfect harmonies in “Lover’s Eyes” and “Ghosts That We Knew,” and newly added electric banjo strums with bass guitars in “Lover of The Light.” Then, like clockwork, the happiness, sadness and every emotion in between that Sigh No More evoked in me began to fade to black. I felt myself involuntarily humming along to every song on the first listen through, perhaps because they began to sound exactly the same. Each song from then on had the quiet choppy beginning, harmonized high pitched chorus, then banjo strumming all-out finale. “Reminder” was stripped down so much it sounded almost as if it was thrown in there without any rhyme or reason. “Broken Crown” is an exact clone of “Thistle & Weeds,” and “Not with Haste” lacks the powerful climax “After the Storm” had. What made Sigh No More such a spectacular album was its unpredictability, and the excitement experienced when those harmonies were belted and instruments blared at such an unexpected point in a song (“Roll Away Your Stone” being a perfect example). By track 12 of Babel I had completely lost that thrill, that unique “flavor” that came with Mumford’s debut.
While I tried really hard to like this album, I can’t allow myself to give it the high praise that it had accumulated before its release. The quartet, over two years since its debut, has grown lazy. Instead of taking that next daring step forward as every band should, they tried to re-kindle a lost flame; and while Sigh No More was a great album, I don’t want to listen to the “remastered” version of it. I want some new unpredictability; new shock and awe. Perhaps I asked too much of the boys, and set too high a standard. Yet while Babel is fun and their lyrics more mature and poetic, it’s time for them to take that next step before they lose the incredible fan base they have accumulated.
Gianna Carchia Asst. Arts Editor
Very few artists today can match the triumphant and honest sound that Mumford and Sons possesses. The success of their debut album Sigh No More was simply phenomenal. The album featured radio tracks “The Cave” and “Little Lion Man” among other wonderfully crafted tunes that secured the band as a unique, refreshing staple of popular music.
The band’s second album Babel was released last week and it stays true to Mumford’s sound while exploring new and deeper themes of love, loss and forgiveness.
The album begins with the strong track “Babel” to get listeners back into the groove of the band’s sound. It’s a proud declaration of “We’re back!” for them, and the song is a promise to tear down the walls around someone’s heart.
“Babel” fades seamlessly into “Whispers in the Dark,” a track with an eager yet tranquil melody that grows into a triumphant beat which defines this as a new classic Mumford love song about reconnecting.
The third track is the first hit from the new album, the powerful “I Will Wait” that expresses the inspiring strength in waiting for someone you love. It’s about getting the feeling of love back, and it was an excellent choice for a first single.
One of the most brilliant tracks on Babel is the fifth track, “Ghosts That We Knew” which is a simple song about two people who have memories and experiences that haunt them, but they survive by holding on together. The song not only explores the strength of real love, it displays Marcus Mumford’s incredible vocal range.
The album has 12 tracks (the deluxe version has three bonus tracks) and you won’t want to skip any of them. Each is hopeful and strong; the distinctive banjo and mandolin, as well as steady buoyant beats, serve to ground the album in Mumford’s matchless sound.
Listening closely for highlights and noteworthy songs, I truly understood why Mumford and Sons has become so popular. With a unique folk sound, they are an unusual member of a pop genre that includes Katy Perry, Rihanna, and One Direction.
Put simply, nobody writes about life and love like Mumford & Sons. Sure, it’s possible to passively listen to their music, but it’s not possible to passively connect with it.
Most of their inspiration seems to come from the notions that while life or love may not always be great, there is always hope. It can always get better; we can always pick ourselves up when we’re down.
This theme is reflected in the melodies. Oftentimes, a track starts out mellow, or with a somber tone, and it slowly grows into the passionately exultant sound we’re familiar with. Of all popular bands, Mumford & Sons may be the most relatable because their lyrics are about not being afraid to admit failure, accept responsibility, and commit to improving yourself.
The new album explores these themes and others; each song is difficult to skip and emotionally gripping. Babel is a mature and energizing album that represents the very best of the band’s sound.