Sunday, February 25, 2024

No sophomore slump to be found in Mumford & Sons’ ‘Babel’ | Album Review


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Even though the new Mumford & Sons album is new and much awaited, the band found a way to maintain its sound with Babel,keeping listeners hanging on to every last note.

Mumford & Sons gave its audiences a small glimpse of Babel, releasing its first single “I Will Wait” in early August, and performing several new tracks on tours across the United States and United Kingdom. Since then, all fans have done is wait for the new album, desperately wishing Sept. 25 would come, so they could finally give Sigh No More a rest.

Babel mirrors similar themes from Sigh No More, which primarily dealt with relationships, hurt and anger. The sound and arrangements of the music are very similar, as the old adage goes, there is no need to fix something that isn’t broken.

The English-folk band gets listeners attention from the get go with the album’s title track “Babel” as Marcus Mumford strums hard on his acoustic guitar in accompaniment by the banjo and the kick drum. Mumford & Sons starts right off with the powerful lyrics and Marcus’ equally powerful voice singing, “I know my weakness in my voice, so now believe with grace and choice.”

The music seems to shift perfectly as Mumford & Sons lead listeners into its second track, “Whispers in the Dark.” With a slow-starting melody and poetic prose, the song about the instability of young love begins to build in the chorus with the banjo and haunting harmonies. Mumford sings, “And fingers tap into what we once were, and I’m worried that I blew my only chance,” repeating the resonating lyrics throughout the fairly short song.

However, the band changes its tune with the third track and single, “I Will Wait.” The uptempo banjo, guitar and ever-present kick drum give the song a happier feel as Mumford and Ben Lovett,  keyboardist, sing in a heavenly harmony. This particular track gives listeners a little hope that maybe Mumford & Sons isn’t all doom and gloom when the Mumford and Lovett sing, “So tame my flesh, and fix my eyes. A tethered mind freed from the lies.”

The fourth and fifth tracks dip back into a slower pace and pensive lyrics about broken hearts. “Holland Road” goes to back the band’s European roots with its picturesque lyrics and references to a cold, broken heart begging for love to return. With its light acoustic sound and heavy piano melody, “Ghosts That We Knew” follows the same line of emotion as Mumford sings, “And you knelt beside my hope torn apart, but the ghosts that we knew will flicker from view, and we’ll live a long life.”

In the sixth, seventh and eighth tracks, the lyrics begin to transition out of the darkness into making an effort to solve the relationship problems, rejoicing because the sad songs are almost over. As Mumford croons, the lyrics of “Lover of the Light” trip over the notes on the piano, as the rest of the instruments– including a full set of drums and a horn section– accompany the song in the chorus. The message overall appears a little more hopeful when the song says, “But love the one you hold, and I’ll be your goal. To have and to hold, a lover of the light.”

The seventh track, “Lovers’ Eyes” further echoes what the previous track preached. With a slow start, the song builds during Winston’s fast picking of the banjo, giving the song a different sound along with stronger harmonies. Rather than just complain about the state of relationships, the song explains how the relationships play mental games when it says, “But do not ask the price I pay, I must live with my quiet rage. Tame the ghosts in my head that run wild and wish me dead. Should you shake my ash to the wind, Lord forget all of my sins. Oh, let me die where I lie, neath the curse of my lovers’ eyes.”

The shortest track on the album, “Reminder,” possesses a very slow speed as Mumford nearly talks out the lyrics, rather than really singing them. The song shows that the remnants of a relationship don’t easily fade when it says, “A constant reminder of where I can find her. Light that might give up the way. It’s all that I’m asking for, without her I’m lost, but my love don’t fade away.”

The ninth track, “Hopeless Wonderer” begins with a beautiful melody on the piano, but listeners are in for a surprise as the acoustic guitar produces a harsh, fast sound during the chorus. Lyrically, the subject matter sticks with what Mumford has been singing about all along– love. Instrumentally, the song makes it stand out, and is probably the best implemented on the album.

With the last three tracks, the album ends on tight note. The ninth track, “Broken Crown,” is reminiscent of “Thistle and Weeds” from Sigh No More as it mimics the sound of the piano and acoustic guitar duo. “Below My Feet” focuses on the harmonic side, with a touch of the electric guitar underneath the melody. The last song “Not With Haste” brings the album full circle lyrically and instrumentally, allowing listeners to get the full essence of the Mumford & Sons sound.

While the album has two different versions for sale, I recommend either. Yes, I know, the deluxe version is more, and we are typical broke college students. But this Mumford & Sons album is worth every penny, and more Mumford is never a bad thing.

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