Mumford & Sons – Babel
by Andy Robinson (Journalism), published October 3rd 2012
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
Their debut album Sigh No More was a near perfect set of songs. The band set the bar pretty high with hits like “The Cave” and “Little Lion Man,” so suffice it to say, fans like myself were very worried that their next work wouldn’t be as good. But the worrying is over, the sun has risen, and the world didn’t end—it just got a whole lot better.
Strangely, many songs on the album seem to reference tracks from Sigh No More. Lyrics involving “stones” seem to be a recurring motif. The track “Roll Away Your Stone” seems referenced in the track “Holland Road” with the line “With your heart like a stone you spared no time in lashing out.” The song “Broken Crown” sounds a lot like “Dust Bowl Dance” with its dark tones use of the piano. But these are very subtle details–it’s not a rehash. It has everything you can expect from Mumford songs—banjos, guitars, trumpets, and front man Marcus Mumford vocalizing some serious heartache. But that’s what fans of Mumford are looking for, and that’s why Babel doesn’t disappoint.
The album’s single “I Will Wait” stands as the “Little Lion Man” of the sophomore album. But where “Little Lion Man” was fast, “I Will Wait” is faster. The slow moments that break up the songs give listeners a moment to breath before going head first into an epic finale. This is something Mumford does incredibly well: getting your heart rate to speeds it doesn’t know and then taking it to a grinding halt for a moment of almost slow-motion reflection. The song is also cringe worthy because of its universal message of pain. It’s supposed to be a hopeful song, but if you’ve lived through this scenario before (waiting for your love) and it didn’t work out, it’s going to be tearful. Fair warning.
“Hopeless Wanderer” is particularly interesting because it’s like a roller coaster. It starts out smooth with a little buildup to what’s to come. Then it whips up and down and around the bend with a fast and wicked guitar riff that feels like a violent stabbing. Then it goes back to the mellow buildup again. It’s impossible to say whether it’s a sad or angry song. Either way, it’s a ride that you’ll stand in line for again and again.
“Below my Feet” stands above all the other tracks. It’s difficult to establish a concrete meaning behind the songs because Mumford writes lyrics with broad strokes about general themes like forgiveness, regret, sorrow, and hope. That’s why it’s so easy to connect with their music. “Below my Feet” has the theme of reflection, which is evident through the chorus. It’s repetition on the note of blood and sweat will stay with you and you can’t help but cry out with them. And I mean literally crying. All of the tears you have will be spilt. Or maybe that was just me. Anyway, the song builds and builds, culminating with the instruments making supernatural thunder claps. It feels like a live album, just cleaned up. If listening in the car, play loud.
Two editions of Babel were released: the standard 12 track version and the deluxe version with three bonus tracks. On the deluxe, you get two original songs and a cover of “The Boxer” featuring Paul Simon and Jerry Douglas. It’s a phenomenal rendition. I also found myself revisiting the bonus track “Where Are You Now.” Well worth the extra bank.
Mumford and Sons have the unique ability of pulling out your deepest emotions and amplifying them. Babel doesn’t hold back. Their angry songs will make your blood boil and their sad ones will make you carry your heart on your shoulders. If you find yourself comparing this album to their debut, don’t. Take it for the fantastic, booming sequel it is.