Words by Lauren Gill
I‘d like to start off by letting you know that this is a biased review. Ever since I saw them at Bonnaroo 2011 under the blazing Tennessee sun amidst tens of thousands of fans, they’ve held a special spot in my heart. I’ll always remember losing myself in the foot-stomping, emotionally charged singalong roller-coaster that is a Mumford and Sons show. With that being said, this indeed will be a biased, but entirely truthful review.
It would be an understatement to say that Babel has been a highly anticipated release. Over the course of a few years, Mumford and Sons have risen to become one of the biggest bands in the world, and with that came questions. What would they do for their sophomore effort? When would it be released? Would they crumble under the pressure? My short answer to all the above? Babel is a glorious illustration of folk-rock at its finest.
It is full of everything that you would expect from a Mumford and Sons album. There’s banjo, horns, jams, and heartbreaking lyricism. And then there’s Marcus Mumford’s voice. There’s something about it that is much more urgent than his voice on Sigh No More. “Let me die where I lie beneath the curse of my lover’s eyes”, he sings on ‘Lover’s Eyes’. What starts out as Mumford and a guitar slowly transforms into the haunting kick of the bass drum paired with soaring horns and a group refrain. The passion in Mumford’s voice is undeniable, and I’m certainly not complaining.
Mumford and Sons don’t just stick to the slow-building foot-tapping tracks though. Some of the most beautiful moments on Babel are made of an acoustic guitar and piano. ‘Ghosts That We Knew’ is the embodiment of this. “I will hold on as long as you like/Just promise me we’ll be alright”, Mumford vows on one of the most simplistically gorgeous tracks that I’ve heard in awhile.
Fans of ‘Little Lion Man’ need not worry though. There are still plenty of songs on Babel to clap your hands and sing along to. The title track is three and a half minutes of Mumford’s voice burning through insistent guitar and banjo. ‘Hopeless Wanderer’ also reaches this conclusion, and is sure to meet the same fate as ‘The Cave’ as one of the their most well-known songs.
All in all, Mumford and Sons knew exactly what they were doing when they made this album. They were obviously looking to construct songs that would electrify live crowds or stun them in their magnificence. I’m not making the claim that what the Brits did on this LP is groundbreaking or innovative in the least. In fact, I’m fully aware that it will receive plenty of criticism for being far too predictable. However I’m perfectly okay with that as long as Mumford and Sons continue to put on live shows that would rival that of Springsteen. And because this is a biased review, that certainly is saying something.
© September 25th, 2012
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