Mumford and Sons – Babel
Record Label: Glassnote Records
Release Date: September 25th, 2012
If you seriously haven’t heard of UK indie/folk band Mumford and Sons by now, you’re most likely living under a rock, or don’t listen to music ever. With that being said, Mumford and Sons is one of the biggest bands right now for a few reasons. They sold 600,000+ copies of sophomore record Babel, and their debut record Sigh No More still sits on the Billboard 200, and it hasn’t left since it debuted in February of 2010. They’ve also made a more subtle contribution in the last couple years by almost “reviving” folk into the mainstream. I’ve read in many places that this band is the perfect “gateway” band for those who are very new to folk/indie, and that really is true. They combine folk with indie-pop to make for a very interesting sound. 2010’s Sigh No More was quite an interesting record because of the way they combined both genres; they have a folk sound with pop sensibilities. The thing people remember most about Mumford and Sons are two things – Marcus Mumford’s distinct voice, and the way he emphasizes the words that rhyme in every song, and the banjo. The banjo really does help this band to stand out among the other indie bands that have surfaced because of Mumford and Sons. In a way, Mumford and Sons pioneered the genre in the sense that they helped it to make a resurgence among the mainstream population, in terms of top 40 radio. Because of them, more folk/indie bands have been getting a lot of recognition for the music they make, such as Imagine Dragons, The xx, and labelmates (on Glassnote Records), Two Door Cinema Club, as well as other bands that have recently released records. One could almost say that it’s “cool” to like mainstream music now, at least the indie-rock/pop and folk bands out there. Well, now Mumford and Sons are back with Babel, and obviously, they’ve made quite an impression if it became the record with the highest selling debut week of the year. So, how does it compare to Sigh No More? It’s a trick question, because if I had to sum this record up in a sentence, my head may explode from just trying to think. This record is great, but it’s also disappointing in some aspects as well. It’s great because it continues the sound that Mumford and Sons are popular for, but it’s disappointing because they haven’t expanded upon that sound. Their sound is great, yes, but this just seems like the sequel to Sigh No More. However, like the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That does like a cop-out, basically, and it really is. While I don’t like the lack of variety in this album, it’s ultimately forgivable to me because I love their sound, and no other band can compete with it. They’re in a league of their own, so why would they need to expand on their sound? They don’t need to, but there are a few tracks that do sort of expand upon on it.
The record starts out with “Babel,” the title track, and this is where the comparisons to Sigh No More begins. On that record, they started out with the title track, too, and it even sounds similar. That’s the biggest problem I have with this is that it sounds TOO similar at some points. As I mentioned earlier, it is ultimately forgivable, because they do have a sound all their own, yet it does bother me at certain points. For what it is, however, it’s still great. “Babel” is a great opening track that does demonstrate the more “upbeat” side of Mumford and Sons. Lyrically, they really haven’t expanded, either; their lyrics are still very poetic, clever, as well as Mumford emphasizing every word he’s rhyming together. That’s something I’ve noticed after awhile, and even on their debut, he does that constantly. However, he does have a very unique and nice voice. Next track “Whispers In the Dark” follows this same formula, and has a much more upbeat folk sound, which Mumford and Sons do best. Although, it does sound like “Babel,” to a degree. Third track, “I Will Wait,” is the first single they released from the album, and this song I had quite a bit of time to get acquainted with. Well, this isn’t the best song on the album, because it’s essentially four and a half minutes of the same lyrics over and over. It’s not a bad track, but it does remind me a lot of “Little Lion Man,” which is the track that got the band popular in the first place. The next track, “Holland Road,” slows this down a bit, and the next few songs, for some reason, follow this formula. The album does slow down tremendously, after a rather strong start. These songs are not bad, but not many of them really stick out. At this point, the only track I really like is “Whispers In the Dark,” and “Holland Road.” “Ghosts That We Knew” is another track that I do really like from the middle of the album; this track has lyrics that I really do like. The thing about Mumford’s lyrics is that they are rather cryptic, yet I think these are the best kinds of lyrics, because they can mean whatever you want them to. There are also a lot of religious undertones in this record, including the title itself. That’s interesting to me, because this band has never been religious whatsoever. Even with the undertones, it doesn’t hinder the record whatsoever, because they are quite subtle.
After the rather forgettable duo of “Lovers of the Light,” and “Lovers’ Eyes,” which both have “lovers” in them, the two most interesting tracks make an appearance. They come in the form of a one-two punch with “Reminder,” and “Hopeless Wanderer.” The former is a two-minute acoustic affair that’s unlike nothing they’ve done before, and it really is a memorable track. Then the five-minute “Hopeless Wanderer” is right after that. This is a track that’s also really interesting as well. It has a more “rock” sound to it, and while every song does have a “arena” sound to it, this one goes the next mile, and has a more indie-rock vibe. It’s nothing they’ve ever done, and it really stands out. However, all good things must come to an end, because next track “Broken Crown” seems to be the next “Little Lion Man,” in the sense that Mumford drops an f-bomb in the chorus. “Little Lion Man” is famous for having the f-bomb in the chorus as well, and it’s the only song on that record that has the f-bomb. Ironically, the same thing is said for “Broken Crown.” The track itself is actually pretty enjoyable, it’s just the similarity to “Little Lion Man” is clearly there. The last two tracks are pretty good as well, and album closer “Not With Haste” is a good album closer, actually. It ends the album on a rather somber and quiet note, which is how a record like this should end.
The biggest gripe with this record is that they don’t expand upon their sound that was prevalent in Sigh No More, and it’s a great sound. Yet it is forgivable, as I’ve said a few times, because it’s a great sound. It’s a paradox. I like this record because it’s the same, but I don’t like it because of that same reason. I’m rather split on this, but I would have to say I like it more than I don’t like it. This record is a good follow-up to Mumford and Sons debut record. It really is. They don’t really fix anything or expand on anything, but it’s great for what it is. If you’re new to this band, you won’t notice any difference, especially if this is the first record by them you ever heard. If so, I’m sure the new fans will enjoy this quite a bit. In my case, this band got me into folk/indie, so I really credit this band with helping expand my musical horizons. However, while some people may not enjoy this record, it’s good for what it is. As I said earlier, it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
Can't believe no one has commented on this review yet. Its fucking spot on, great job man. I agree with almost every point.
Thanks, man! I'm surprised no one's commented on this yet, either; I would think people would have opinions on this record, if anything. But thanks again. This is one of the more interesting releases of the year, because I have mixed feelings on it.