Mumford and Sons: a Unique Sound with a Smash Hit New Album
Forrest Miller—Muze Staff Writer
If you haven’t heard the new album from Mumford and Sons titled, Babel, it’s time that you tuned in. It certainly seems like everyone else has already done so. Babel trounced Justin Bieber’s Believe album (with sales of nearly 600,000 in the first week) to become the top selling debut album of 2012. That honor is well deserved.
The great thing about Mumford and Sons—well, one of the great things—is their unique sound. It is very hard to pin them down to a genre. Take the voice of Marcus Mumford, for example. He sings in a raw gritty tone. Taken independently of the instruments, he could almost be a singer for a 90’s band like Bush, 3 Doors Down, or Crash Test Dummies. Add the rest of the music, however, and you wind up with something entirely different. Where bands like Bush relied on a droning sort of depression to create their individual sound, Mumford and Sons are masters of crescendo, uplifting and powerful, and very difficult not to sing along to (see an official video to get an idea).
Mumford and Sons tends to stray away from defined genres in a number of ways besides the vocals. Instrumentation is one of those variations. Most popular music being produced today sticks with a tried and true method for their instrumentation, selecting only the flashy modern instruments. Mumford and Sons, however, uses a framework of bluegrass music, often featuring instruments like the mandolin, upright base, and accordion. They are especially known for there heavy use of the banjo, which they have single-handedly redefined as a “cool” instrument.
The use of bluegrass instruments and the folk music undertones is one of the ways Mumford and Sons has really defined their musical style. It also bridges a gap between different genres of music as well as musical eras. To illustrate this point it is useful to look at the one cover song on Babel: “The Boxer” (originally by Simon and Garfunkel). A lot of bands like to cover Simon and Garfunkel hits. Think about how many renditions of “Bridge over Troubled Water” there are, for example. Still, no one has ever really captured the sentiment, harmony, or enduring greatness of the originals. Mumford and Sons, however, has an advantage since they have a natural folk music quality to them, reminiscent of the Simon and Garfunkel era of folk music. They also stick with a relatively pure version of “The Boxer” and feature Paul Simon, himself, on the track. The result is stunningly close to the original and, by far, the best cover out there.
While their music has a folksy quality to it, it would not be a fair comparison to call it bluegrass or folk. It has it’s own sound and there is an infusion of rock and roll in every song. That sound is sometimes howling, sometimes soft and sweet, and sometimes vigorous. It is always, however, robust, honest, and entertaining.
In many ways Babel follows the example of its predecessor, Sign No More, the band’s first album. It shares in an affinity for very beautifully crafted lyrics full of literary allusion, found everywhere including the titles (Sign No More comes from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and Babel is, of course, a Biblical reference). Both have a haunting quality in some of their quieter songs and a tendency towards a raw climaxing power in their upbeat songs. There has been some criticism that Babel is too similar to the band’s first album and that it doesn’t explore any new musical territory. With respect, there is a lot still to be examined. Babel is less a second album and more a continuation of the first album, which is needed because Sigh No More was so masterful that the audience considered it only the hors d’oeuvre. They still want more.
Tags: Babel, babel review, Justin Bieber, Marcus Mumford, Mumford and Sons, mumford and sons album review, mumford and sons babel review, mumford and sons new album, mumford and sons outsells justin bieber, music reviews, sign no more, folk music, rock music
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