Soundcheck: Mumford & Sons’ Babel
By Mykel Vernon-Sembach
Artist: Mumford & Sons
Rating: 4 out of 5
Best Tracks: “Whispers In the Dark”, “Hopeless Wanderer”
It has been roughly three years since Mumford & Sons released their masterpiece, Sigh No More, filled with Appalachian mountain bluegrass and chorusing lyrics written by Marcus Mumford. Their British-injected western take on country has wooed the hearts of today’s generation because of tracks like “Little Lion Man” and “The Cave.” It is now autumn and Mumford & Sons have graced our pretty little ears once again with their second album, Babel.
The best friend that was Sigh No More has grown a little older, a little wiser and a little louder with Babel, introducing a new wave of emotions to Mumford & Sons followers. Long gone is the humble and humility they held gingerly, Mumford & Sons is no longer afraid to come out brash and broken. Marcus Mumford’s voice is now a bit more weathered from performing, but does not lack strength. The title track, Babel gets the album going with Marcus wiping away Sigh No More for a carte blanche. The way their fans knew them in 2010 is not the same Mumford & Sons now. A recorded confessional too beautiful for the priest to keep to himself, Babel is a destructive force of honesty.
“Whispers In the Dark” is anything but Babel is the recognition of sin and fault (not necessarily his), explaining that everything was all done with good intention and for that, he will not take fault: “I’m a cad but I’m not a-flawed / I set out to serve the lord.” The lyrics are seemingly just too well-fitting for the chorus that Marcus’ sincerity is almost false; rhyming for the sake of sing-a-longs. It only takes a few times to realize the pompous vocals are just, in fact, proud.
Of course, their single “I Will Wait” is a youthful anthem to growing and changes; young’uns exploring the world around them and their relationships with the people they meet and how they are affected.
The next tracks lack any immediate attraction to the novice Mumford & Sons listener and will most likely take a few more listens of Babel for the songs to really grow on the audience.
“Lover’s Eyes” rises from the album’s lull into “Reminder” and “Hopeless Wanderer,” both of which dominate the second half of the album.
“Hopeless Wanderer,” one of the dominant tracks of Babel, recalls that no matter who we are, we’re all a little lost but that doesn’t mean we’ll always be. Babel is raw and enlightening; pointing out not just the moments of fear, but the interactions we have before, during and after. Old followers of Mumford & Sons will here echoes of Sigh No More in “Broken Crown.”
“Below My Feet” pulls a Bob Dylan with the introduction of some rhythmic electric guitar, a diversion from their acoustic M.O. (but certainly does not lessen the song’s overall impression, especially in the final chorus).
Babel closes with “Not With Haste,” a quiet closure to an otherwise extroverted piece.
If those so lucky purchase the deluxe edition, the bonus tracks “For Those Below” and “Where Are You Now” are beautiful; quiet precious gems that turn a good album into a great one. With these bonus tracks, Mumford & Sons really flexes their musical abilities and certainly worth the extra for the deluxe purchase.
It has been three years since Sigh No More and parting from such a defining album, but it will not take many listens of Babel to resound with the same ol’ Mumford & Sons. With a name like Babel, Mumford & Sons lives up to its ancient reference, towering above many of the releases from 2012. While lyrically Babel does not quite resonate with the same intensity as Sigh No More, its three-year production shows how quality overthrows quantity any day.