Calling all bluegrass lovers. Correction: calling all music lovers. Mumford & Sons, the guys who changed our views on banjos and upright bass about three years ago, are back with a new album, “Babel,” which dropped Sept. 24.
The story of the Tower of Babel is a Biblical tale of confusion, punishment and lack of understanding, but Mumford & Sons never seems to have much trouble with their lines of communication. Since 2009’s “Sigh No More,” the boys have been showing the Top 40 what Americana music is all about. With hits such as “Little Lion Man” and “The Cave,” London natives Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett, “Country” Winston Marshall and Ted Dwane made their mark on the music scene — and this time around it’s no different. With explosions of sound and eloquent lyrics, they haven’t strayed far from what we last heard from them. And why change when it works so incredibly well?
The album flows together with a mixture of foot stomping, sing-a-longs and touching, emotional ballads. The songs are accompanied by Marcus’ raw and powerful voice that demands to be listened to through the gorgeous harmonies of the other three musicians.
“I Will Wait” is the boys’ first single off of the album, and it’s already climbing the charts. With its high-energy verses and crooning chorus repeating “I will wait, I will wait for you,” Mumford and the boys have another hit on their hands. As the album continues, so do the emotional, banjo-plucking, foot-tapping songs. Though they add an infusion of electric guitar in “Broken Crown” that has an entirely more rocking feel than “Sigh No More,” the boys stay true to their mellow roots. “Below My Feet” in particular brings on the goosebumps when the four men harmonize at a whisper in the chorus.
The band hasn’t changed much in three years, despite experiments with a more rock sound. Because of that, it’s pretty hard to differentiate between their first two albums. For example, “I Will Wait” sounds a little too similar to “The Cave.” In fact, the chord progression of both songs is just about the same. It would have been nice to see them branch out further. Mumford & Sons always play it safe, which can get a bit boring.
Sometimes described as “bluegrass dubstep,” Mumford & Sons is definitely not the kind of band who fits into the standard “folksy” genre. No, they don’t the have major beats and catchy hooks that characterize most of today’s hit music, but their massive build-ups and bursts of instrumental energy come pretty close, coming through in song after song. It’s country music that’s worth a head bang or two. Maybe they’re not everyone’s style, but they’re something to be appreciated.
So the overall consensus? “Babel” definitely deserves a listen.
Speakeasy Rating: A
Mumford & Sons
Key Tracks: “I Will Wait,” “Babel,” “Broken Crown,” “Below My Feet.”