“Babel” album review


By Kaitlyn McCurdy

The first time I ever heard a Mumford & Sons song was when I watched them perform live at the 2011 Grammys. I remember looking over at my dad and saying “Who are these guys? They’re so different, I’m loving it.” I promptly forgot about them after the awards ceremony, however, as I do with most artists. It wasn’t until I saw their song “White Blank Page” recommended on tons of music blogs that I gave them a try. I have to admit, I’ve never listened to their debut album, “Sigh No More,” all the way through. I constantly get stuck on “White Blank Page” and I can’t seem to get myself to listen to the rest. However, after listening to the folk band’s latest album, “Babel,” I’m mentally kicking myself in the head. This band pulls together one of the greatest albums of the year, and I’m dying to hear more from them.

I can’t fully explain what it is about the first track, “Babel,” that captures me, but it really does. It really, really does. It might just be that I was awed by how much emotion Marcus Mumford can project in his voice. His voice is delightful to listen to. “Babel” is a strong, powerful start to what can only be a fantastic album.

The second track, “Whispers in the Dark,” is just as strong as the lead track. It shows off Marcus Mumford’s writing ability. This track is almost poetic lyrically, with lines like “but fingers tap into what you were once / and I’m worried that I blew my only chance.” It has a somewhat different sound to it than the rest of the album. If I had to name a favorite, “Whispers in the Dark” would be it. By the end, you wonder why it had to finish.

“I Will Wait” is the lead single off the album, and what a gorgeous single it is. The track starts off strong, but slows just as Marcus Mumford starts to sing, and picks up again multiple times throughout the track. The chorus is absolutely gorgeous, with a great harmony, and a simplicity that’s just stunning. There are singles that you get sick of in a short period of time, but this isn’t one of them. Brilliant track.

“Holland Road” tricked me. It started off slow, but in true Mumford fashion, picked up by the midpoint of the song. The track has arguably the best lyrics on the album, with lines like “and when I’ve hit the ground / neither lost nor found / if you’ll believe in me I’ll still believe.”

“Ghosts That We Knew” is one of the slower tracks on the album, but it does gain some momentum towards the end. It gave me chills. Haunting backing vocals, strong lyrics, and Marcus Mumford’s powerful voice shine in this track.

“Lover of the Light” was made to be performed live. The instrumental just sets itself up to be a great performance in front of thousands of fans. The lyrics don’t really stand out, though, compared to other songs on the album.

“Lovers’ Eyes” seems to be a continuation of “Lover of the Light.” It encompasses all that’s come to be associated with Mumford & Sons – banjos, a powerful chorus, and more. A good track, I wouldn’t skip over it, but it’s not one of the best.

Clocking in at just over two minutes, “Reminder” is the shortest song on the album. It’s simple, slow, and it leads into the second half of the album. It’s not a stand-out track unless you listen to the album from start to finish in one sitting, and it’s over so quickly you almost don’t notice it.

“Hopeless Wanderer” starts out with a gorgeous, soft piano lead. However, within the first two minutes, the track completely changes into the closest rock song the band has released. Maybe that’s why I don’t particularly care for it? Something just sounds off about the instrumental of the song, and by the end of it, I was thinking “I have no idea what the lyrics were, I was too distracted by the instrumental.” A second listen didn’t help. If only the song just continued with the slow piano. That just might save it.

“Broken Crown” has been compared to Mumford’s single “Little Lion Man.” The only real similarity is that both songs contain the only curse word sung in their respective albums, and both have a slow, gradual build that has you completely entranced by the end. “Broken Crown” has a darker tone, both in lyrics and in instrumental. One of the strongest tracks on the album.

“Below My Feet” is another track with chilling harmonies. I fell in love with this track within the first twenty seconds. The instrumental just grabbed me, and of course I had to stick with it to hear how the song would end, as it’s another song with a slow buildup. Most of their songs end sounding completely different from how the began. And I’m not complaining.

“Not With Haste” is as powerful of an ending as “Babel” was as an opening. The track is an ode to how the band won’t change, despite criticisms for the media. It’s pretty and the instrumental is…calmer than most of the banjo heavy songs Mumford releases.

Sophomore albums are always labeled the most difficult, especially if an artist had an extremely successful debut. Mumford & Sons won’t have to worry about “Babel” being a disappointment. The album became the fastest selling album of 2012 in the UK with over 150,000 copies sold in the first week. It’s also the biggest debut of 2012 in America, with over 600,000 copies sold in the first week. It’s no wonder why the album is doing as well as it is. Mumford & Sons stayed true to themselves, delivering another album packed with elegant lyrics, banjo heavy instrumentals, epic harmonies, and great build ups.

No, the band is definitely not for everyone. The music is much more adult than what most teens would listen to on a day to day basis. I must admit, I listen to a lot of pop. A lot of mainstream. A lot of artists that are polar opposites of Mumford & Sons. But no one can deny the genius behind the band’s tracks. Mumford has claimed a spot as one of the most talented acts in the business and rightfully so.