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Mumford & Sons Strum On

Abram Scharf

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Mumford & Sons, Babel

(Glassnote Records)

Grade: A+

The banjo shredding brits, Mumford & Sons, are back with their second LP Babel, and it already seems like they have been around for forever. In February of 2009 they released the album Sigh No More, which yielded radio gold with hits like Little Lion Man and The Cave. Since then Mumford & Sons have taken on the role of the Bob Dylan for a new generation, breathing new life into the folk rock scene.

Babel is wonderful in a comforting way. It sounds just like you would expect, which make sense because many of the songs were written before and during the writing of Sigh No More. Markus Dravs, the producer behind their first record as well as the earth-smashing album The Suburbs by Arcade Fire, makes listening a pleasure by keeping things simple. Each track is an acoustic anthem, the kinds of songs that you could howl into the night while roasting marshmallows over an open fire.

From the beginning it is shown that Mumford is far from finished when it comes to lamenting about his lady troubles, with lines like “Press my nose up to the glass around your heart, I should have known I was weaker from the start.” There is no lack of theatrics, but it isn’t overdone. Everything word is saturated with sincerity.  The intricacies of each melody are infused with mellow vocals, always poised and ready for a crowd pleasing crescendo.

The album’s single I Will Wait is a hope filled cut that gains intensity with every word, each chorus sending the song to new emotional heights. The tear-jerking Leonard Cohenesque lyrics are in high supply, as demonstrated in tracks like Ghosts That We Knew and Not With Haste. The richness of Mumford & Sons’ sound can be attributed in part to hearty background vocals as well as their signature and ever-present blue-grass inspired banjo twang.

The delicate piano and guitar ballad Hopeless Wanderer explodes into a full blown steel stringed cuticle cutter. This creates one of their most intense songs to date. Whispers In The Dark features a kick drum that beats like the heart of a sweaty palmed teenager on Valentine’s Day. “Let’s live while we are young!” Marcus Mumford repeatedly cries out to the listener. After all, one of a musician’s greatest fears has to be the uncertainty of growing older. One moment your CD is being sold at every Starbucks in the western world and the next you are the Barista Of The Year. It could happen, just not to this phenomenal quartet.

At their heart, Mumford & Sons are story-tellers. They tell tales of woe and worry, of challenge and triumph. Their lyrics are excruciatingly personal yet highly relatable, and are as sad as they are sweet. Babel is a true treat, especially for anyone who is looking for a powerhouse sound minus the earsplitting distortion. After all, any band that can turn a folk song into a Hot 100 hit can do just about anything.

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Mumford & Sons Strum On