Fans can get off their bottoms, dance and cheer because Mumford & Sons is back with enjoyable folk tunes for all. Marcus Mumford, Country Winston Marshall, Ben Lovett and Ted Dwane have done it again with their long-awaited sophomore album, Babel. Three years ago, their debut album, Sigh No More, turned the quaint London four-piece into a Grammy award-winning success.
And Babel picks up where Sigh No More left off, effortlessly taking listeners on a spiritual journey of self-discovery. Mumford excels as a modern-day raconteur; his voice preaches to the choirs, regurgitating lyrical poetry that seeps into the chambers of the heart. Essentially, Babel is a bible for the hardcore worshiper of music with its philosophical and religious lyrics that are both uplifting and heartbreaking. This album is a testament to everlasting love, committing and recovering from sins, preserving beliefs and resurrecting one’s inner spirit.
The opening song, “Babel” reminds people why they fell in love with Mumford & Sons, celebrating the band’s return with speedy mandolins, guitars and banjos. Mumford triumphantly yells, “’cause I know my weakness, know my voice, so now believe in grace and choice.” As usual, Mumford expresses his view on the different aspects of love and romance—“I Will Wait” holds true to this theme with the whole concept behind the upbeat folk single being conveyed in the title. In acoustic tearjerker “Reminder”, Mumford sings, “without her, I’m lost, and my love don’t fade away.”
The beautiful piano introduction courtesy of Lovett in “Hopeless Wanderer” sets it apart from the rest, making it an instant favorite. “Holland Road” also soothes the ears with a gentler tone in Mumford’s voice and softer instruments strumming along in the background.
One commonality between all of the songs on this album is the use of religious references. Mumford doesn’t hesitate to mention the Lord, begging him to “forget all of my sins or let me die where I lie beneath curse of my lover’s eyes.” The beauty of Mumford & Sons is that while their music touches upon religious themes, fans’ ears aren’t being clogged with their religious views.
Despite all of this deserved praise, Babel still falls a little short. There’s something about it that’s slightly off. Perhaps it’s the fact that listeners already know what to expect from Mumford & Sons. “Broken Crown” is a good example of this—Mumford’s voice starts at a whisper, followed by guitar strumming that is paired with a banjo.
Listeners are so familiar with his raspy voice that they can predict when Mumford will break out into fearsome shouts because they pick up on the crescendos halfway through the song. And all at once, he harshly howls, “So crawl on my belly till the sun goes down / I’ll never wear your broken crown / I took the road and I fucked it all away / And in this twilight how dare you speak of grace.” Taking things down a notch, Mumford speaks the lyrics without instruments for the remaining 20 seconds, a smooth transition into the lighthearted hymn-fest, “Below My Feet,” sounding straight from a gospel choir recording.
Mumford & Sons apply the same elements they used previously and embellish what they do best, which can definitely be viewed as a positive, but they fail to add anything fresh to the brew.Sigh No More debuted strong musical and lyrical flavors that hadn’t been mixed together for quite some time whereas Babel is the signature dish that everyone has already tasted before. But at the end of the night, the meal is still satisfying—Mumford & Sons’ music feeds the soul and Babel definitely leaves fans hungry for more.