album review: Mumford & Sons Offers chilling sophomore release

Meredith Shea

Mumford & Sons, a four-piece band from London, exposes its soul and reaches a new level of vulnerability in “Babel,” exceeding expectations for the band’s sophomore release.  The authenticity and genuineness is exactly what the American music scene has craved since Mumford & Sons’ 2010 debut album, “Sigh No More.”

Lead singer Marcus Mumford continues to grip listeners’ souls with his gritty vocals in every song, creating a chilling effect.  The lyrics are beautifully crafted and reveal the depth of a hauntingly personal relationship.  In “I Will Wait,” Mumford sings, “But I’ll kneel down, wait for now, I’ll kneel down, know my ground.” In “Ghosts That We Knew,” Mumford sings, “But you saw no fault, no cracks in my heart, and you knelt beside my hope torn apart, but the ghosts that we knew will flicker from you, and we’ll live a long life.”

But there’s more to the band than Mumford alone. Like songs on the album “Sigh No More,” the band attacks its new hit single, “I Will Wait,” with a four-piece harmony, a characteristic that makes it interesting.  If Mumford’s solo voice isn’t good enough as is, the four-piece harmony is sure to send shivers down listeners’ spines.

Mumford & Sons, along with The Avett Brothers, and more recently, Trampled By Turtles, brings back the popularity of instruments like the mandolin and banjo.  The instruments’ interesting sounds are traditionally found in bluegrass, but Mumford & Sons especially manages to transform the old sound into a riveting combination of folk, alternative rock and tenacity.

Mumford & Sons’ precision demands attention and respect.  The band weaves through a maze of songs that are fast and slow, major, minor, relaxed and aggressive, and is not afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve.

In “Broken Crown,” Mumford reveals inner turmoil.  A decaying relationship is brought to life, perhaps revealing the story behind Mumford’s 2010 breakup with girlfriend Laura Marling.  Either way, “Broken Crown” exposes a hurt that “Sigh No More” failed to embody so gravely.  The song starts cooking from the first few words: “Touch my mouth and hold my tongue, I’ll never be your chosen one.”  It then escalates into a high-speed chase with Mumford’s iconic near-scream singing.

Mumford & Sons is sure to attract old and new fans alike with this genius collection.  “Babel” will certainly be at the top of the Billboard charts for weeks to come.

[email protected]