By: Anita Alem
Mumford and Sons took the world by storm in 2009 with their release of Sigh No More, breaking into the Indie music world. The band of four returns three years later with their sophomore album Babel, attempting to remake the magic that won the folk band a BRIT Award.
Babel may not be new to listeners, as Mumford and Sons introduced several of the songs from the album last year for testing. By studying audience response to the songs, the band was able to further perfect the music before finally compiling and releasing it.
The album begins with the title track, and “Babel” is reminiscent of the sound Mumford and Sons is famous for: gritty raw voice mixed with powerful banjo strumming. Through fine-tuning, the band manages to take a hillbilly twang and metamorphose it into a powerful, uplifting tune. As expected, the song is littered with Biblical references, in contrast to their previous album’s affection for Shakespearean and Greek allusions. However, the next track, “Whispers in the Dark”, falls terribly flat. The band’s attempt at rock music with electric guitar and drums is cacophonous, and one can see why they stick to folk music. Obviously, their listener base doesn’t want Led Zeppelin or AC/DC, and one must wonder why they chose to keep this track in the album. Mumford and Sons returns to their comfort zone with “I Will Wait” and “Holland Road”, both of which will remain in the listener’s head long after the album is through. The latter is surprisingly trite lyrics-wise, but its directness and lack of Biblical references may even increase commercial success. The band changes up the sound slightly by combining all four of the members’ voices at times, where there was only lead Marcus Mumford before. The technique works well, adding layers to the music and preventing Mumford’s voice from becoming tiresome. Tshe next few songs feature the usual strong lyrics, but it’s not until “Lover’s Eyes” that the full potential of the band comes through; the melody is catchy, beautiful, and muted, with the strength of four voices shining. The volume rises imperceptibly, taking muted beginning to a crescendo end. On top of all this, the lyrics hint at Romeo and Juliet with “let me die where I lie/’neath the curse of my lover’s eyes”. “Lover’s Eyes” is by far the best of the album.
“Reminder” is a two-minute testament to the strength of Mumford’s voice, and it serves to prep for “Hopeless Wanderer”, a much longer song. The sudden change of tempo in the middle mixed with the accumulation of an electric banjo is quite a jolt, refreshing a song that would otherwise be bland. The album slows down for the finish, whisking through a few tunes of anger and spirituality to reach “Not with Haste”. This final track brings the album to an end with a steady beat, finishing Babel off.
Mumford and Sons may not have lived up to the ridiculously high expectations after the success of Sigh No More, but Babel is by no means a failure. With a few standout songs and very powerful lyrics, Mumford and Sons continues to shine as one of the best bands of the Indie-folk scene.