Ah, the tragic tale of the classic sophomoric struggle. Band struggles to find success, band’s single and British Indie charm earn recognition, band’s debut becomes top-10 seller. So when said band sets out to put together album No. 2 as a follow-up to Sigh No More, which reached a globally astounded audience, there was a lot of pressure to simply do well.
There were a number of directions Mumford & Sons could’ve ventured to musically, and we thought the “Little Lion Man” hitmakers were unable to do any wrong. But it seems the British lads cracked under the pressure, as the weight of the world’s watch became heavy, and Babel shows music lovers the flawed composition of a band with its priorities askew.
Without going too far into the amplified ego of a rags-to-riches disappointment, it should be noted that “I Will Wait” is one of the year’s best songs. The single is a statement about what Babel should’ve been: raw, upfront and mind-blowingly brilliant. Marcus Mumford nearly shouts on the track, raising his voice at a rare moment on the album, proving the astronomical distance he’d go for for his lover. With a stomping chorus and a hymn-like set of versus, the song is well-rounded and gorgeous. It hurts and heals as many moments on any previous single did.
Babel is every bit as heartfelt as it should be. Celebratory of love’s charms and mournful of its aches, the album will take you on a journey only this band has been known to do. Its title track full of fire, its upbeat jams luminous with wonder and its sorrow distraught with pain, there is imagination in which to revel. There are just so many lulls in between that have no match for the album’s wins. Never boring, just deadbeat, tracks like “Lover’s Eyes” and “For Those Below” are missing an element of liveliness. Listen for “Lover of the Light” and “Ghosts That We Knew,” though. These moments are tiresomely and firesomely memorable.
Sigh No More was imperfect, too, but it was fresh and interesting by 2009’s standards. Three years later, the awe has partially worn off, and unfortunately Babel doesn’t rekindle the love like it should have. It’s not awful; it’s just good. It’s amazing to hear the banjo and upright bass in tandem with passionate vocal work once again, but that’s the effect of the band. The compositional work was what stammered this time around.
Early predictions place Babel as the top seller in its first week of sales, earning over half a million in just seven days. Not only does this solidify a strong year ahead for Mumford & Sons full of promotion and touring but it also confirms a fallout in their underground status. After the release of Babel, it’s not just Indie folk fans that love a good upright bass and soulful lyric — apparently, it’s everyone. Mumford & Sons can rest easy because their fame will help propel their new album to monetary success, something a weakened sense of direction isn’t able to do.